The deal: Rs.300 out, Rs.12,000 in
The sand lying at the bottom of the creek sells at Rs.12,000 per brass (approx.100kgs), but the man who brings it up probably gets a mere Rs.30. This is the tragedy of the labourers who slave under the most strenuous and dangerous circumstances to keep the construction industry going through illegal sand mining.
After exploiting these labourers through the most backbreaking physical ordeal, the contractors sell the sand to builders and developers at Rs.12,000 per brass, who, have been reportedly recovering costs of almost Rs.24,000 per brass from purchasers in the black market.
Even as the builders and developers continue hiking property rates, the poor labourers earn the same small amount, risking their lives everyday. But strangely, they have no fear of the police or the press even though they are aware that their dangerous mining work is illegal.
The sordid side of the story:
The labourers working on the dredgers to mechanically mine the sand or working manually are not scared of any police officials or media persons as they claim they are guarded by political leaders as well as gangsters.
They are currently engaged in mining sand from various creeks around the island city of Mumbai. Though sand dredging, as per orders of the honourable High Court, is allowed only to a certain extent, this business is carried out freely and openly across creeks near Thane, Navi Mumbai, Bhiwandi and Konkan region of Mahad, Chiplun and Alibaug.
When the ADC tried to talk to the workers, and took a picture of the illegal dredging activity, a contractor forcefully snatched the camera and deleted all the pictures saying, “Do whatever you want to, this business has been running since the past several years under Ganesh Naik. He will take care of us. Printing articles in newspapers will not affect us either.”
Guardian minister of Thane district, Ganesh Naik speaks:
Yesterday, the ADC contacted Excise minister in the state cabinet, Ganesh Naik when he came to Mantralaya, and told him about the contractor’s statement. This is his answer. “Earlier I was in the dredging business but now I am not involved in any way. My former partner has shifted his business to Mahad and Chiplun. It has nothing to do with me. You can go ahead with your story.”
A source closely engaged in the dredging business claims that along with Ganesh Naik, another minister is also very much involved in the illegal mining of sand. If this is not bad enough, gangster Chhota Rajan’s brother is also reportedly engaged in the business.
How is the sand mined?
This has always been their traditional occupation - removing sand either manually or by machines. The labourers go deep towards the bottom of the creek holding on to a long bamboo pole and fill the sand from the creek bed into a basket. They have to remain in the water for almost 3 minutes, risking being drowned.
A group comprises not just divers engaged in the manual removal of sand, but also the dredger operator. As a group, they make Rs 300 per brass which is then shared. This is the traditional occupation of people living in the coastal areas of Bhiwandi, Kalyan, Navi Mumbai and the entire Konkan belt of Maharashtra state.
The exploited labourer speaks:
A labourer, on condition of anonymity, said, “I go with a group of 10 persons on a boat. The contractor pays us Rs.300 per brass, which we all have to share. So we have to use our skills to bring up much more quantities of sand so that we can earn something more per day.”
When asked about compensation for injuries or death during traditional sand removal which is very hazardous, the labourer said, “We do not have any such schemes from the contractor or any one else. If some one dies, the families just have to suffer without any benefits or compensation.”