Local sources told DT Next that the check dam, after the recent copious rain, had water to a depth of 20 feet, much to the elation of farmers in Balur, Kotthur and Madinapalli villages. However, they were shocked when on Thursday, they found that the check dam across the Malallar river was bone dry, though the dam had water the previous day.
They immediately informed local PWD officials who rushed to the spot and on investigating found that three of the dam’s shutters were welded in the open position. An official on condition of anonymity said: “The culprits first opened the shutters manually by using the handles on the facility and then when the water drained they ensured that the shutters remained open by welding them in that position.”
Investigation revealed that this was the handiwork of the local sand mafia which had over the years become emboldened by the remoteness of the location and lack of official action. Though local farmers had on many occasions set fire to the sieves used by the mafia to winnow fine sand, it only resulted in the culprits lying low for some time before returning to their activity.
Villagers said their suspicions centred on Velu (60) of Periathamalseruvu village as he was said to be close to the sand mafia. Pernambut police have referred the case to the Umarabad police station in Tirupattur district, 10 kilometres from Pernambut, due to confusion as to which police station had jurisdiction over the area due to police districts not being bifurcated fully. “This is used to advantage by the sand mafia and ultimately we farmers are the people to suffer,” said a local farmer.