Kasargod: An official ban notwithstanding, sand mining remains rampant along the Chandragiri which is the longest river in north Kerala's Kasaragod district.
Three years have passed since a government order prohibited sand extraction, noting a grave depletion of the natural resource. Despite this, a 35-km stretch of the river's Payaswini tributary is dotted with ghats letting vehicles down to the riverbed to scoop up sand.
On an average, there is a ghat every 200 metres. Local people allege that the operations are on in connivance with officials of revenue and police departments.
While lorries don't face hassles to break the law and drive down the walkways to the riverbed to mine, only country boats carrying sand face confiscation.
Spots where sand mining is most rampant are Thuruthi, Bevinchi, Cheroor, Panalam, Chengala, Kalluvala, Mundakkai, Pandikkandam, Oliyathadukka, Kottumba and Pallangod. In these places, the police have confiscated sand-laden country boats before dismantling the carriers.
When it comes to tippers, one load of sand costs Rs 5,000. Up to 15 loads of sand are extracted and moved out every night in this manner offsetting the confiscation or cost of country boats that the criminal gangs stake.
All this, despite 'strict' orders by district police chief A Srinivas against sand mining. One bit of action being taken is to register cases against those hoarding the mined sand and those paving paths for their transportation.
A chunk of the mining labourers are migrants and come at a cheap cost of Rs 1,250 as wages for uploading a tipper with sand. The remaining Rs 3,750 goes to the overseer. For those owning the tipper, the profit is even wider. For, one such load of sand costs no less than Rs 12,000 when sold even just a km away from the river.
Those mining sand are adept in diving the moment they spot the police and emerge from the waters very far away. Several of these expert divers are also adept at hiding their canoes under water to avade confiscation.