Editorial: Hand in sand

With our natural resources, especially sand, falling in the hands of greedy and influential people, courts have been time and again intervening in the issue and passing strong orders. On Wednesday, the Supreme Court sought responses from the Centre, CBI and five States, including Tamilnadu, on a plea which sought prosecution of entities involved in illegal sand mining. A bench, headed by Justice S A Bobde, issued notices to the Centre, the Central Bureau of Investigation, Tamilnadu, Punjab, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh on a plea which claimed that rampant illegal mining in the States was causing environmental degradation.

During the arguments, advocates Prashant Bhushan and Pranav Sachdeva, appearing for the petitioner, told the court that sand mining was going on in the States without the requisite environmental clearance. The plea also sought a direction from the apex court to the CBI to ‘register and investigate sand mining scams’ mentioned in the petition. Earlier this year, in March, the Madurai bench of the Madras High Court expressed concern over illegal mining of natural wealth, including sand, and directed officials to get details of action taken against those allowing it and the number of people booked.

Justices N Kirubakaran and S S Sundar gave the direction on a public interest litigation (PIL) seeking action against illegal mining in Dindigul district and sought to know the designation of the officials against whom the Goondas Act had been invoked for allegedly conniving with the illegal miners. And, in April, the HC suggested to the State government to nominate higher officials known for impeccable integrity and unimpeachable honesty in the High-Level Monitoring Committee with adequate powers to curb illegal mining activities. Also, wondering how rampant illegal mining of river sand continued across the State despite so-called ‘effective’ surveillance mechanisms put in place by the State government, the Madras High Court directed the government to speed up the process of deploying Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) / drones in areas prone to mining. It’s not just the duty of the court to take tough stand on the issue, but the responsibility of every one of us to protect our resources.

NT Bureau