KL NEWS NETWORK
In what could turn out to be a biggest scam, the Irrigation and Flood Control (I&FC) Department in the garb of dredging river Jehlum at Sumbal in North Kashmir’s Bandipora district is going for alleged haphazard sand extraction and later trading it illegally, thus not only incurring huge losses to the state exchequer but also disturbing the fragile ecosystem.
Locals informed CNS that certain contractors in league with Executive Engineer I&FC Sumbal Division have been resorting to loot, instead of proper de-slitting and dredging they have been extracting sand illegally from different spots of Sumbal area including Shilwat, Naninara, Baharabad, Asham, Hakbara and Shadipora and later trading it illegally.
Locals added that the top officials of I&FC Sumbal Division are directly responsible for incurring huge losses to the state exchequer by resorting to illegal means. “At Inderkoot Yarbal not only work was allotted to a contractor without any allotment or without flouting any tender but the income that should have gone to the state exchequer went into the pockets of the contractor and the I&FC officials. Similarly work was allotted without tenders to the contractors at Hajin and Ganastan areas of the Division,” locals said.
While demanding a thorough probe into the bungling the locals further informed that at Shilwat spot contract was allotted to extract 10,000 units of sand. “You will not believe 90,000 units of sand was extracted illegally and that was sold to private parties. Besides, Rs six lakhs were not deposited in the Division and instead it went to the personal coffers of I&FC officials of the Sub-Division Sumbal,” Bashir Ahmed a local said.
Respectable citizens from the area said that in absence of proper monitoring by the department some unscrupulous contractors in league with the I&FC officials use sophisticated Motor Launching Boats during night hours to extract sand illegally at Naninar Sumbal. “The spot is rich for sand mining. Lorries are loaded with sand and sold to private parties. The money earned through this illegal practice goes into the personal pockets of officials and unscrupulous elements,” they said.
They said contractors who want to work honestly are either side lined or demanded bribe. “It is irony that I&FC officials demanded Rs 22 lakh from a contractor to start work at Hawkbar spot while he had got the tender at the cost of Rs 12 lakh 27 thousand only. In the garb of dredging and de-silting process I&FC officials have not only been disturbing the fragile ecosystem but also draining the state exchequer.”
“On the instructions of a Junior Engineer and a Works Supervisor a JCB was used to extract sand illegally at the back side of Shadipora Sumbal and all this was done in the full knowledge of Executive Engineer. These officials neither allotted this work to any contractor nor bothered to flout proper tenders. This speaks volumes. We urge upon anti-graft bodies including Vigilance Organization to take suo-moto cognizance and initiate action against I&FC officials and other unscrupulous elements,” the locals demanded adding that the sand which gets extracted along with slit during the dredging process has actually to be put to auction by the Flood Control Department through proper mechanism.
Admitting that illegal sand extraction is going on in Sumbal Division, Sub Division Magistrate Ghulam Muhammad Bhat said that he has already a Supervisor for his links with sand mafia. “I have been receiving such complaints from past one month and yesterday I raised the issue during a meeting with I&FC officials and warned them of consequences in case the allegations are proved correct. I attached an official for his links with illegal sand extractors. It is a serious issue and if the illegal extraction of sand goes unabated, Sumbal Sonawari being the low lying area may witness devastation if God forbid flood hits Valley,” he said.
When contacted Chief Engineer, Flood Control and Irrigation, Javid Ahmad Jaffar said he will personally visit the Division to assess the position.