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Journalist-turned-crusader Inspires Many to Fight Sand Mafias in MP

Bhopal: A journalist-turned-crusader fighting a lone battle against the mining mafias in Damoh district of Madhya Pradesh has inspired many in the state to fight the menace caused by mining.

The 76-year-old ant-graft crusader Santosh Bharti is not just battling sand mafias, but the corrupt government machinery, too.

If it weren’t for his efforts, the Damoh Zila Panchayat President wouldn’t have been penalised. Not just that, the orders were also issued to remove him due to his role in illegal quarrying.

The central zone bench of NGT, based in Bhopal, has fined Zila Panchayat head Shivcharan Patel with Rs 9.25 lakh, and also ordered his removal from the public office over illegal quarrying of sand in Panna tiger reserve buffer area.

Bharti’s lawyer Sudesh Waghmare said: “Ordering assessment of damage caused by the illegal sand mining in the area, the NGT bench ordered action against the accused under IPC if no FIR was lodged against him.”

Petitioner Santosh Bharti told News18 over the phone that it all started on June 5, 2016, when a young deputy ranger Forest Manisha Porwal went to check illegal quarrying of sand on our complaint and found one tractor trolley stuck in the sand.

Soon Zila Parishad head’s son Indrajeet Patel landed on the scene. “Indrajeet, who is a sarpanch of village Bacchawan, not only threatened the officer but also freed his tractor and left,” Bharti said.

A subsequent complaint to police by Porwal bore no result and police, forest officers, and district collector did nothing, despite court orders, he alleged.

However, in April this year, the NGT appointed IFS officer RS Murthy as court commissioner and Murthy found illegal quarrying complaints true. On his report, the NGT issued an order against Zila Panchayat head on Monday. Zila Panchayat head Patel and his son Indrajeet are reportedly absconding soon after NGT order, sources said.

Significantly, it was Bharti who took Murthy to the site, submerged in waste deep water to help him see how illegal mining was taking place.

“This is perhaps the first such verdict in the country,” Bharti said, adding that illegal mining and mindless boring against norms was rampant in Damoh district.

First Published: May 2, 2017, 8:27 PM IST