The BJP should get ready for its next major embarrassment. The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has used unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to photograph illegal mining in Morena in Madhya Pradesh. On 7 March, an upright IPS officer Narender Kumar, was killed while trying to stop illegal mining in the area.
The CBI, which was given the case by the state government in response to the public outcry against the IPS officer’s murder, hired a private UAV to fly over difficult terrain in Morena to gauge the extent of damage that illegal mining had caused. The UAV used high-definition cameras to record the depredations. These pictures, which have spotted huge moon-like craters in Morena, arrived at the CBI headquarters last week.
Experts are now studying and analysing the pictures. The CBI will tally the extent of mining done as compared to the mining actually sanctioned by the Madhya Pradesh government led by BJP Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan. The agency will then apprise the MP government of the scale of illegal mining happening in Morena and adjoining areas and will recommend the levy of fines or penal taxes on the companies responsible for the illegal mining.
The CBI, with the help of a UAV, has mapped only a 20 km radius (as a sample) of the Morena terrain to highlight the fact that illegal mining is happening despite the local police, forest officials and the state government.
This is only the second time that the CBI has hired a UAV for investigations. Earlier the agency had hired UAVs for discovering the remains of Rajasthan nurse Bhanwari Devi.
Morena provides stone through mining to Delhi and other metros. Heavy duty cranes and other machinery used for illegal mining had disappeared soon after the murder of Narendra Kumar. But the CBI has documented the extent of illegal mining through aerial mapping now – which will be difficult for the state government to brush under the carpet.
Most of the 100 mines existing in Morena are illegal. Recently, the BJP’s Morena Vice-President Hamir Patel was arrested for illegal mining. Even Congress MLA Andal Singh Kansana’s son Kaptan Singh got bail in a 2010 case where he led a 12-man armed team to take away a seized truck from outside a police station.
Narendra Kumar’s murder had created a national furore over the shock killing of a young, honest and enthusiastic IPS officer by the mining mafia. His wife Madhurani Tewatia, who is herself an IAS officer, had demanded a CBI probe, apprehending that the local mining mafia had conspired to kill her husband. His father Keshav Prasad feared that the local policemen were part of the conspiracy.
Shivraj Singh Chouhan had then ordered a CBI inquiry to deal with the political heat. Anna Hazare had also sat on a day’s dharna to highlight rampant illegal mining and the killing of the IPS officer.
Leader of the Opposition in the Madhya Pradesh assembly and Congress leader Ajay Singh had then said to the media: "We have been pointing towards the presence of a mining mafia which enjoyed the political patronage of the ruling party. The morale of the illegal mining mafia is so high that they have now killed an IPS officer".
The CBI team investigating the case has ruled out any conspiracy, but confirmed that Narendra Kumar, posted as sub-divisional police officer at Bamore in Morena district bordering Uttar Pradesh, was pushed in front of a tractor-trolley on Holi day in March, when he tried to halt the tractor. It had happened on the spur of the moment, CBI officials say.
The CBI team took the driver to the spot and made him re-enact the entire 'murder' episode. The CBI has also videographed the driver Manoj Gurjar's rendition of the drama.
“Narendra Kumar was accompanied by his gunman. On a tipoff, Kumar intercepted a tractor-trolley laden with illegally-mined stones and stood in the middle of the road to stop the tractor-trolley on the Mumbai-Agra National Highway No 3. Spotting Narendra standing on the road, the driver of the tractor-trolley Manoj Gurjar turned the vehicle. Narendra ran after the tractor and even managed to grab the driver by his collar. But Manoj didn’t stop the tractor-trolley and kicked Narendra with his leg. Narendra fell on the road and rolled down to a side to save himself, but Manoj Gurjar consciously ran over him,’’ the CBI officials said.
Manoj Gurjar had not planned the murder, but he did intentionally run over Narendra. “He could have saved Narendra, if he wanted to,’’ the CBI officials said, adding that the fine for an impounded vehicle is 20 times the price (Rs 20,000) that a tractor-trolley laden with quarried stones carries.
CNN-IBN had earlier reported that the sandstone business is worth more than Rs 400 crore. The mining mafia is in control of the area and had even shot at a collector and superintendent of police in the past. The rampant mining has posed a threat to heritage sites and Archaelogical Survey of India-protected Shiva temples in Bateshwar.
Last year, 174 cases of illegal mining and transportation were registered in Morena. In less than a month, Narendra had registered 20 cases. The miners sell stones to stone-cutting units for prices ranging anywhere between Rs 5,000-25,000 a tonne. And these units sell it to exporters in Delhi, Calcutta and Chennai at higher profits.