Durga power: Sand mining, politics and the suspension

Durga power: Sand mining, politics and the suspension

By Ayush Prasad
The Uttar Pradesh Government is getting a lot of bad press for suspending a 2010 Batch Indian Administrative Services (IAS) officer, Durga Shakti Nagpal. She was serving as the Sub Divisional Magistrate (Assistant Commissioner) of Greater Noida in the Gautam Buddh Nagar District. I am sure a lot of her collegues must have been envious of her holding this coveted posting. While holding this post, she had cracked down on illegal sand-mining from the river beds of Yamuna and Hardoi. The Supreme Court had banned the construction of any religious sites on public land and she tried to implement that order, which ultimately led to her suspension. There are two different issues that have been juxtaposed here.

Sand Mining

Over 300 million Indians have come out of poverty in the last two decades and have joined the new middle class. Small Investments have gone to banking deposits and gold, while large investments have gone into cars and real estate. It is a rightful and a prehistoric desire of all human beings to own property, a piece of land they can call their own. This has seen a real-estate boom in all major cities such as National Capital Region (consisting of National Capital Territory of Delhi, Gaziabad, Faridabad, Noida, Gurgaon, Rotakh), Mumbai (Mumbai District, Suburban Mumbai, Thane, Navi Mumbai), Bangalore (Bangalore Urban, Bangalore Rurual, Ramnagaram, Chikkhabalapur, Hosur), Hyderbad, Chennai, Calcutta, Ahmadabad, Bhopal, Lucknow-Kanpur, Patna etc. This boom has been encouraged by the government by giving tax rebates as it employees a large number of people.

Indian real estate properties are not built using wood but using concrete, bricks and sand. This has encouraged sand mining across India, especially near major urban centers, which are often near major rivers or sea.

Sand is available in abundant quantities on and near all river beds and near the sea. It is available on the surface of the earth. Hence, open cast mining can be carried out without the use of any machines. The sand sold in the real estate market fetches a high price and is often of little or new use to the people on whose land the sand is found. It is also replenished every year by the rivers, but certainly not in the quantities that it is being extracted. Not being a major mineral there is no regulation and most states prefer to ban sand mining.

The demand for sand is high and hence banning mining only leads to corruption. The ban is implemented not at a state level but at Taluk, Sub Divisional and District Levels. The ban on mining is implemented in a very adhoc manner by raiding the (regularly) shifting mining sites and check posts. The mining is carried out by illiterate and poor people, who are not organized into any mining company and are often called "mafia". These mafias or local gangs often bribe officials and have little regard for them. It is precisely why an IPS Sub Divisional Officer was killed in Morena District of Madhya Pradesh while trying to prevent sand mining. In a way, they are also democratic as a Constable and a DGP would be the same for them- a person in khakhi.

Indian rivers have seasonal flow, due to their very nature (rain fed and rains occur due to seasonal monsoons) or due to the Construction of Dams. Coinciding with the construction period (dry season), the river bed is devoid of water and provides ample and easy access to the sand on the river bed. Mining of the sand, takes away the upper layer of the river bed, thereby reducing the carrying capacity of the rivers. Hence, less water can be carried by them. By mining on the embankments, the surface is rendered flat and when water level rises in the rivers, floods become more common.

Sand mining will continue until there is demand for the sand. A blanket ban has only increased corruption or has provided district level officials to aderline rushing adventures. But the solution to this mining is not in action at the district level, but in regulation. Panchayats should be made aware and given powers to implement their regulations. The income form mining should reach the community rather than just be taken away by the mafia. In the 1970s and 80s, the Mumbai Mafia could grow because of the high duties and Custom Department could do little to control it. It ended when the Finance Minister suddenly removed duties making smuggling unprofitable.

Did Akhilesh Yadav Government post her to check Sand Mafia?

Its highly unlikely that the IAS officer was posted to check Sand Mining as there are other areas in Uttar Pradesh where Sand Mining is a bigger problem. She may have been given near Delhi posting for other reasons of compassion or trying to have urban face to deal with urban issues of Noida. Most rural UP officers dont do well in the cosmopolitan town due to cultural differences.

The officer was acting on Sand Mafia for over 10 months and efforts were underway to get her transferred. The Akhilesh Yadav government could have transferred her, due to a "routine administrative decision" but instead stuck by her. They would like us to believe that it was because of they wanted to check the menace of Sand Mining in the region and they had supported her. The real reason could be anything from the people who wanted her transferred did not have sufficient influence or the Government was to extract more money for her transfer.

The longer she stayed, the more loss she caused to the Mining Mafia and more would they be willing to pay the government for her transfer.

Religious Places on Public Land

Religion is part of India's Culture and plays an important role in everyday lives of even the most secular Indian. Equality before the Law was a practice of the British Raj, before that the caste and religion played an important role in punishment and in the law to be followed in determining the crime. The partition of India occurred on religious lines, with Jinnah getting a muslim majority nation of Pakistan, while India remained a multi-religious country.

The original Constitutions of India and Pakistan did not declare India a secular nation or Pakistan to be an Islamic nation. Both nations promised their citizens that there will be no discrimination before the law on basis of religion  and that the state will not do anything to promote any religion - convert people of one religion to another. It was only during National Emergency in 1976 that India became secular and during Martial Law in 1981 that Pakistan become an Islamic Republic.

The Supreme Court ruled that since India has no state religion, public lands should not be used to construct religious sites. The state has not constructed these religious places, but thousands of religious structures lay on public lands across India They had been constructed by encroaching upon the public lands. The constitutional ideal is in battle with the customs of the land. And resolving this conflict is suicial in political terms and only the state of Gujarat has been fully successful in adhering to this Supreme Court order demolishing hundreds of mosques and thousands of temples. 

Land is a precious resource in India and the land per capita has constantly been going down due to increasing population. About 49% of Indian labour works in the Agriculture Sector, where income is directly proportional to the land owned and the middle class wants to have a piece of land they call their own. In all of this, the Government and its various organs (Defence , Railways) are the India's largest land owners. Every state government has a Revenue Department, with Deputy Commissioners (aka Collectors, District Magistrates) , Assistant Commissioners (aka Sub Divisional Magistrates), Tehsildars (aka Talukdars), Divisional Commissioners (aka Regional Commissioners) to basically manage the Government Lands and keep a register of who owns which land. The Central Government has Estate Services as part of the Union Civil Services to manage its land. And after so much effort, due to corruption and incompetency, public land is encroached by everyone from Ministers to small farmers to hawkers to slum dwellers. These lands become places of worship or could be used to earn a private income. Anti-encroachment drives lead to riots and can finish political careers.
It is rare that anybody tries to remove such encroachment. In this case, the Sub Divisional Magistrate was doing her job by trying to prevent the construction of a mosque in middle of a village consisting of Muslims.

Western Uttar Pradesh (Harit Pradesh) has a large number of Muslims and due to frequent riots in the last two decades, significant ghettoizing can be seen in this region. Hence, one can find Muslim Villages and Hindu Villages but few villages of both Hindus and Muslims. Hindus are divided between Jats and Dailts. In the 2012 UP elections, the Congress tried to win Muslim votes as Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) had kept its control of Dailt Votes. By making an alliance with Rastriya Lok Dal (RLD) of Ajit Singh, a party which represents Jats, the Congress antegonised mulsims who migrated to Samajwadi Party. Since the muslim majority of the region voted for Samajwadi Party, it helped Akhilesh Yadav get absolute majority. It is therefore important for Akhilesh Yadav to keep Muslims happy by making such strong gestures of "suspending an IAS officer who was trying to prevent the construction of a mosque during the holy month of Ramzan."

The Supreme Court should allow Panchayats to transfer the public land with the approval of the gigantic Revenue Department to groups of people for community use that may include religious use. A blanket ban allows politicians to engage in politics of religion which hurts the unity of India.

Suspending the IAS Official

It is not often that an IAS or an IPS official is suspended but a Group C and Group D officials are regularly suspended. Apart from strong rules and good influence over Government, the officials have little direct responsibility, as they are always supervisors. Punishment is usually restricted to sending them on leave or an infamous transfer.
Suspensions of officials are often seen positively by the people. The politicians could be taught a lesson by the people in regular elections, but the bureaucracy gives people no such opportunity. Hence, suspension is an opportunity when the people see the official suffering as they have suffered for many years. When Tamil Nadu Chief Minister suspended 18,000 officials in her last term in Government, her public approval ratings had shot up. High Ranking Government officials in many states have earned this ire of the people for being visible dictators. Their vehicles are often parked in no-parking zones and they throw their weight around at every given opportunity.

Many believe that they rule a kingdom, rather than providing particular services to the public. The lack of awareness about the roles and responsibilities adds to the aura. Many officials behave like erstwhile Nawabs, by not performing their duties and wasting Government Money.
Today, Durga Shakti Nagpal would see a lot of support from the "Delhi Intellectuals" (experts on every topic under the sun) but hardly any support from the people living in her jurisdiction.

Intelligence Reports

The Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, Akhilesh Yadav has said that an Intelligence Report told him about the possibility of riots in the region because of the "demolition" of the wall of what was to be a village mosque. This may not entirely be an excuse, but the larger point is that intelligence reports are often random stories without much base. Along with the terrorists and the media, these reports have played a big role in propagating fear psychosis in minds of our countrymen. The authenticity of these reports are being challenged by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) which is good. The opposition may say that it would harm national security and demoralize the dull central intelligence agencies, but it is time they pulled up their socks.

Recently, the Central Intelligence Agencies issued an alert to 7 airports around the country for possible high-jack. The airports were placed under high-alert and newspapers were filled with such stories. This high alert basically meant that passengers had to arrive at airports earlier and undergo more extensive frisking. The guns and the dogs were also more visible. The alert was never downgraded, but the staff at the airport got bored and decided to take it easy again. No one was caught with any such plans and nothing came out of it. The sleeper cell seems to have gone back to sleep.

Every time the Army General visits Kashmir Valley, the newspapers are filled with reports of 3000-5000-10000 terrorists waiting in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir, doing nothing but just waiting, to cross the hills and infiltrate India.  But the reality is that even the Indian Army does not have 10,000 soldiers waiting somewhere so that they could immediately be deployed to the Kashmir Valley. There is no real base for such information and if there is why is the Army not acting against them. If these people have been waiting, they have been waiting for several years now. It would be a waste of resouces to keep them idle for several years after extensive training.
Most intelligence reports have become convenient secret tools to carry out other ulterior motives such as keeping Army relevant in Kashmir or justification of a suspension. Even if the government anticipated Law & Order problems due to the demolition, they should have taken into preventive custody the potential trouble-makers, which would have worsened the situation, but it is the rule of the land. But the intelligence report would never have mentioned the particular people, as if an alien from outer space would miraculously come and cause the disturbance.

The suspension should be revoked and reforms should be carried out to make India a better country.


Ayush Prasad - Archives:



Top Stories

Comment on this article

  • Dinesh, Mangalore

    Fri, Aug 09 2013

    Catch all 'Dongi' politicians, who suspend strict IAS officers, who thinks that poverty is just a 'state of mind', who calls Paki soldiers are 'innocent' or who calls army jawans join only to die etc etc.., Just remove their pant and shirts, just allow them to wear lan$%$... push them across LOC, rest either paki soldiers/ militants/ or those wear military dress etc will take care of them!!!

    DisAgree Agree [6] Reply Report Abuse


    Thu, Aug 08 2013

    These highly qualified IAS Officers have to serve the nation upto sixty years and then retire from service. Whereas the politicians who have got criminal background come to power and vanish as people discard them from power. The brave lady IAS officer is really sincere and has done a good work. And these so called politicians instead of appreciating her work kept her under suspension. very rediculous indeed.

    DisAgree [1] Agree [9] Reply Report Abuse

  • P.Rajesh Shetty, Padubidri / New York

    Wed, Aug 07 2013

    Why didn't the UPA Govt. ( incl. Sonia Gandhi & PM Manmohan Singh ) make the same ' halabullu ' ( or make the same effort ) in the Robert Vadra land grabbing case and the transfer of Mr.Khemka ?

    DisAgree [9] Agree [12] Reply Report Abuse

  • Clifford, Mangalore

    Tue, Aug 06 2013

    SP government ministers(father and Son gang) has robbed the state now father wants to be Prime Minister to rob from rest of the nation. Fault lies with voters who vote for people like this.I hope Supreme Court intervenes in this case and protects this young and non corrupt and efficient officer.

    DisAgree [2] Agree [10] Reply Report Abuse

  • Neel, Manipal

    Tue, Aug 06 2013

    Very well written article. It analyzes every aspect of politics very well. It is sad that Government Officials would have to play politics in order to survive. We should create a system that officials and survive with simple adherance to the rule of law.

    Politics need to be cleaned up.

    DisAgree [1] Agree [6] Reply Report Abuse

  • Ramesh S, mangalore

    Tue, Aug 06 2013

    SUNNI WAQF BOARD issued statement that Durga was followed court instruction & issued only notice..wall was demolished by locals themself..dirty politics & sick politicians and shame who seldom believe them..Regarding Kashmir, yesterday our Army patrol ambushed & Jawans martyred..we are in und WAR zone all the time, it doesn't matter Army gives Genuine alert or fake..we must be vigilant all the times..

    DisAgree [3] Agree [15] Reply Report Abuse

  • Prashanth Poojary, Karkala

    Tue, Aug 06 2013

    Dirty Politics,do we need this kind of democracy further? do we need this kind of ruling system?do we need this devide and rule policy by our politicians? I hope naxalism getting popularity only because of this kind of our ruling system!!!

    DisAgree [1] Agree [24] Reply Report Abuse

Leave a Comment

Title: Durga power: Sand mining, politics and the suspension

You have 2000 characters left.


Please write your correct name and email address. Kindly do not post any personal, abusive, defamatory, infringing, obscene, indecent, discriminatory or unlawful or similar comments. Daijiworld.com will not be responsible for any defamatory message posted under this article.

Please note that sending false messages to insult, defame, intimidate, mislead or deceive people or to intentionally cause public disorder is punishable under law. It is obligatory on Daijiworld to provide the IP address and other details of senders of such comments, to the authority concerned upon request.

Hence, sending offensive comments using daijiworld will be purely at your own risk, and in no way will Daijiworld.com be held responsible.