One of the new kind of mafia driven and politician administered illegal activities taking place in India is illegal riverbed mining. All the major rivers like Ganga, Yamuna, Narmada, Sutlej, Godavari, Krishna, Cauvery etc. were mined of ‘red gold’ beyond their replenishing limits. The plight of smaller rivers was even worse. The murders of whistle blowers and assault on government officials continue unabated. The killing of a journalist in Sultanpur UP, a forest guard in Morena MP and activist in Tamil Nadu while exposing and preventing illegal riverbed extraction proved that the mining mafia had no fear of law.
Apart from this, deaths of innocent villagers due to deep sand mining pits, changed river courses and fatal accidents were also reported in different states. The death of two kids in Bihar, a woman in MP and a youth in Kerala had direct link with illegal trading of the riverbed sand. In the year 2016, there have been several reports clearly exposing politician-administration-mafia nexuses carrying on sand mining in broad day lights in violation of laws thus causing losses running into crores to state exchequer across Saharanpur (UP), Maharashtra, Bihar, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal. There were reports revealing black money generated by sand mining as big sources of funding to political parties and even elections.
In Uttarakhrand, the bandwagon of peaceful protests has been taken up by some saints through satyagraha. Satyagraha – Truth Force begins when Swami Shivanand finds out that the state of Uttarakhrand, India has begun mining the Ganges river. In protest, he decides to undertake a Satyagraha – a fast until death. He takes on the government and covert mafia style organizations to stop the destruction of the sacred river. What his Satyagraha uncovers is a corrupt and greedy system whose indifference to the river greatly contributed to the loss of life and property in a disastrous flood which killed thousands. It also follows the investigation into the suspicious death of his beloved disciple, Swami Nigmanand, whom he believes was murdered in 2011. Swami Shivanand is probably the world’s most unlikely environmental activist; he is a compelling character who is fighting not just for the sanctity of the river, but for the preservation of a way of life that is rapidly disappearing in India.
The spectrum of the protestors must expand, covering a lot more people from other backgrounds to join the task Swami Shivanand. The media should highlight this menace too, so that NGOs, social activists, celebrities, and politicians too can come up against it. India is a land of rivers and the very sustenance of the country, to a large extent, is dependent on the livelihood and lifestyle surrounding the river. The incumbent state and the central government should put weights behind this cause and support the activists working to prevent India’s great rivers.