Monday, July 22, 2024

Tamil Nadu Sand Mining Scandals: 2013 -2023

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Tamil Nadu is no stranger to Sand Mining Scandals or Sand Mafia. The state renowned for its scenic landscapes and rich Sanatana Culture is grappling with a persistent problem of illegal sand mining activities. In 2013, CM Jayalalitha-ruled state, faced an inquiry into illegal sand mining. In 2023 the sand mining issue has resurfaced with the Enforcement Directorate(ED) raids in 34 places. Allegations of corruption, collusion, and the grip of a powerful sand mafia can summarize the situation of Tamil Nadu aptly. However, despite multiple controversies and investigations, culprits have eluded justice, casting a shadow over the state’s sand mining industry.

Tamil Nadu’s History of Illegal Sand Mining

The lid on illegal sand mining in TN might finally be lifted (but perhaps for the
PC The Scroll.in

The specter of illegal sand mining has loomed large over Tamil Nadu since the 1990s. It casts a long shadow of environmental degradation and corruption. This unlawful practice has run rampant across riverbeds, indiscriminately targeting vital waterways such as the Cauvery, Palar, Vellar, Pennaiyar, Bhavani, and more. The consequences have been devastating, wreaking havoc on the riparian ecosystem, diminishing groundwater levels, and desiccating once-thriving wells.

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The nexus between illegal sand mining and political involvement is a distressing reality. Local politicians, bureaucrats, sand miners, the police, and even local governments have often been implicated in this dubious alliance. For political parties, sand mining represents a lucrative revenue stream, while the sand mafia employs financial influence to sway local opinions. Funding local political parties and infrastructure projects further entrenches the sand mafia’s control and influence in Tamil Nadu.

2013 Tamil Nadu Sand Mining Scandal

Thirty Years of Official Collusion Helped Tamil Nadu's Beach Miners Break the Law
PC The Wire

In 2013, the sand mining scandal finally rocked the state of Tamil Nadu. The AIADMK administration faced severe criticism as the scandal unfolded. Shockingly, no one was held accountable despite allegations of corruption and collusion between the sand mafia and government officials. The Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) unearthed that the state government incurred colossal losses due to illegal sand mining. While the exact damage by illegal sand mining cannot be stated in mere rupees, the CAG report exposed rampant corruption within the industry.

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Inquiries and Delays

Where smugglers kill at will and blood soaks river sand | Chennai News - Times of India
PC The Times of India

Following the CAG’s revelations, the Tamil Nadu government initiated an inquiry. However, it remained incomplete, raising suspicions of inaction.

In 2016, the Madras High Court intervened, directing the government to conclude the inquiry within six months. However, the government has yet to heed the court’s order.

Pervasive Corruption

The 2013 sand mining scandal is just the tip of the iceberg, highlighting the widespread corruption in the industry. The sand mafia, a well-organized network, thrives on illegal sand mining and wields significant power. It pays a token amount to each household on a ration card, panchayat head, and political leader on the quiet for cooperation with their system. The mafia has deeply entrenched itself in the state’s political and economic landscape.

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Suspected Figures

Several individuals have been suspected of connections with the sand mafia:

  1. S. Ramachandran: Accused of colluding with officials, he is under investigation by the Enforcement Directorate.
  2. Karikalan: Accused of involvement with the sand mafia, he is also under investigation by the Enforcement Directorate.
  3. Dindigul Rathinam: Linked to the sand mafia and under investigation.
  4. P. Shanmugaraj: Official of the PWD in Tamil Nadu accused of collusion with illegal mining. 
  5. R. Ramasubramanian: Accused of Y. Lourthu Francis’s murder. Francis was trying to combat the illegal mining in the area. Ramasubramanian and his aide were sentenced to lifetime imprisonment recently.
The two convicts in Murapanadu VAO murder case at district sessions court on  Friday. (Photo | V Karthikalagu)
PC The New Indian Express

Except for the reported murder, no one has been convicted of corruption or moral turpitude. The ED’s raid and the CAG‘s report underline the industry’s pervasive corruption and collusion.

2023 Enforcement Directorate’s Investigation into Sand Mafia

ED raids continue over Tamil Nadu 'sand mining scam' | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
PC Hindustan Times

In September 2023, the Enforcement Directorate conducted raids at 34 locations across Tamil Nadu. They were targeting sand mining sites, sales depots, and the offices & residences of sand mining contractors. The investigation centers on money laundering and tax evasion schemes associated with sand sales. This is the latest sand mining scandal that has engulfed Tamil Nadu.  

Reform and Accountability

These ongoing sand mining scandals underscore the urgent need for reform in Tamil Nadu’s sand mining industry. Moreover, the repeated actions underscore the need for transparency and accountability in the sand mining sector. Additionally, it shows the lackadaisical attitude of the state government in decisively combating illegal practices.

Currently, the outcome of the raids and ED’s investigation remains uncertain. The state of Tamil Nadu and its sand mining industry stands at a crossroads. The need of the hour is to stop the ecological damage and the financial degradation of the government system. A call for reforms and to curb corruption is the need of the hour. 

The unearthing of the latest sand mining scandal in Tamil Nadu heralds a pivotal moment in the state’s upcoming elections. It unmasks the corruption and hidden agenda of the ruling DMK in the state. It also hints at the reality, presenting an opportunity for people of the state to reevaluate and redefine their political choices. As the investigation proceeds, Tamil Nadu’s population can choose the path of reform and transparency, safeguarding its invaluable natural resources for generations to come. However, who do they trust with this responsibility is a question that remains to be seen.

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