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Sand mafia replaces seized tractor with another
Angry that sand smugglers managed to openly replace a tractor, which was caught taking away sand from Malattar river, with another at the Pernambut old taluk office in the early hours of Tuesday, the residents of Masigam village, about five kilometres from Pernambut, petitioned Pernambut tahsildar and the local police inspector to take steps to stop rampant sand smuggling from the river.
Illegal sand mining from the river had stopped for a brief while after the local villagers began maintaining a night vigil on March 2. But it started again two days ago. Led by village head D Chandran and district farmers association functionary engineer Ramadoss, villagers stopped a tractor in the early hours of Tuesday for alleged smuggling. Following an argument with the driver, they deflated its tyres and informed local revenue officials.
Soon VAOs Suresh (Pernambut) and Murali (Chinnathamal Seruvu) arrived at the spot. The officials allegedly maintained that they would book the tractor for sand smuggling only if it was brought to the taluk office. As the vehicle’s tyres were flat, the sand was offloaded on the spot and the vehicle was taken to the old taluk office. Then the officials allegedly said it was not possible to register case against the vehicle because the tractor was empty.
According to P Subramani, a local resident, when Ramadoss and another villager, Ramu, went to the local station to complain to the inspector, a sand contractor who was present there entered into an argument with them for blocking vehicles carrying sand. The police then defused the situation by requesting that Ramadoss and Ramu leave.
But there was another shock waiting for them when they reached old taluk office premises. Instead of the vehicle they seized, there was another tractor with a different registration number. While the seized tractor’s carried the number plate TN 23 BU 6759 near the top of the radiator, the replaced vehicle had an indecipherable number plate attached to its bumper.
Incensed by what they claimed was evidence of blatant nexus between sand cartels and officials, village head D Chandran shot off a letter demanding action, failing which the villagers would boycott the ensuing Parliamentary polls.