Ahead of the Assembly by-election in Madhya Pradesh, state Congress party has initiated a campaign against illegal mining and river conservation 'padayatra' in the Gwalior-Chambal region led by seven-time MLA from Lahar and former minister Govind Singh. He initiated the 'Nadi Bachao Yatra' on Saturday, September 5, in Bhind and Datia districts and has been walking 18-20 km every day as a part of the campaign aimed at 'garnering public support' against unlawful mining in the region.
Waterman Rajendra Singh, Rajya Sabha MP Vivek Tankha, Congress working president Ramniwas Rawat, Computer Baba and others have also taken part in the campaign. Senior Congress leader Digvijaya Singh and senior Gandhian activist Rajgopal PV will attend the event on Friday, September 11, when the 'yatra' culminates at the Sind riverbank in Datia’s Sankua area.
According to sources, the Congress party was of the view that the 'yatra' should cover the entire Gwalior-Chambal region but sensing that dates for by-polls could be announced anytime soon, the party leadership asked Singh to limit the campaign to Bhind and Datia districts only. Of the 27 assembly poll bound seats, 16 are scheduled to go to by-polls from the Gwalior-Chambal region, which has for years remained a hotbed of unlawful mining.
Singh (69) had often confronted the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) over illegal quarrying of sand in the region, and openly claimed that he had failed to stem illegal mining in the area as a part of the Kamal Nath Cabinet in the past.
Devendra Tripathi, the Block Congress president, told News18 that Singh had carried out a survey with the help of an organisation and the findings of the survey had deduced that water level in local Sindh river has faced depletion by around 70% in last ten years due to sand mining, which has been destroying the water holding capacity of the river.
Besides Bhind and Datia districts, the entire Gwalior-Chambal region has been gripped by illegal miners for years and audacious mining mafia often engaged in bloody fights with the police, forest and other enforcement agencies being regularly assaulted by the miners upon facing obstruction in their unlawful activities.
Hitting out at the mining mafia and alleging patronage of politicians and police in the trade, Tripathi said, "The mining mafia is so undeterred that we regularly spot several vehicles carrying sand despite sand mining being banned in monsoon months."
During the Covid-19-induced lockdown, DIG Police Rajesh Hingankar had raided various illegal stockpiles of sand in Bhind and had probed the role of couple of policemen including a senior official in connection to the case.
In his addresses, Singh often cited the example of a hand pump that he got dug up around a decade ago in Machhand, 15 km from Lahar, and the water level below the hand pump has gone down to 180 feet as against 80-90 feet ten years ago. With the help of his campaign, Singh has highlighted illegal sand mining in the catchment areas of rivers Sind, Mriga and Chambal, and has underlined the fact that if illegal mining does not stop, the region could be gripped with water scarcity in future.
However, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has termed the yatra as Singh's personal agenda. "Dr Govind Singh with the yatra is condoning his old sins in the fag end of his political career," alleged BJP spokesperson Deepak Vijayvargiya, adding that when the Congress was in power, their leaders accused each other of illegal mining. Once we returned to power, we have stopped all kinds of unlawful activities, claimed Vijayvargiya.
Congress Gwalior-Chambal media in-charge KK Mishra said that illegal mining was a curse for the entire state. "Dr Govind Singh's yatra is crucial for ridding the Gwalior-Chambal region from mining mafia. Positive results of this yatra will be visible in the days to come," said Mishra, adding that those responsible for illegal mining in the region have already come to the spotlight.