In a startling revelation, the notorious sand mafia operating in Thane district is brazenly bypassing the web-based Maha Khanij system by ferrying various types of minerals on the virtue of invalid royalty receipts and expired electronic transport permits (ETP). This has caused multi-crore losses to the state exchequer.
The matter came to light after a Talathi (revenue officer) Ramesh Fafale attached to the Dongri village unit in Bhayandar (west) intercepted a sand crush laden truck during routine inspection duty on the highway in the Ghodbunder area of Kashimira. The truck driver Ayub Shaikh produced an e-TP (bearing number 13348918). When Fafale checked the receipt on the Maha Khanij mobile application, it turned out to be invalid. The sand-crush laden truck was impounded and parked near the upper tehsildar’s office.
“Yes, we have taken note of the issue and our office will take action accordingly,” said Thane district collector Ashok Shingare told the FPJ. The incident has exposed the massive transportation of various minerals in an illegal manner through similar modus operandi’s like-incomplete receipts sans place of delivery (offload) and designated purchasers’ location which provides opportunities multiple usage of a single ETP generated from the system, invalid royalty receipts and even expired ETPs.
“Such a blatant exploitation of the ETP system not only creates a dent in the state revenue, but also poses a serious threat to the environment due to the illegal mining and haphazard dumping activities. The government should take immediate steps to curb such illegalities,” said environmentalist-Dhiraj Parab.It has also been alleged that truckers on the behest of the sand mafia also switch off the vehicle tracking system (VTS) to avoid live tracking, route deviation and real-time movement of vehicles.
What is the Maha Khaij system?
In a move aimed at enhanced transparency in state wide mining, revenue growth by preventing illegal transportation of minerals like murum (powdered rock), crushed sand, normal sand, limestone and lime shell, the state government has introduced the unique Maha Khanij system. Having interface with Android and iOS applications, the system is armed with features which can not only track reports about daily lifting, monitoring performance, illegal vehicles found and fine details, but also assists in maintaining a database related to minerals, registered agencies, lease period, renewals, tracking and monitoring the movement of minerals, payment and recovery procedures.
Whenever any officer intercepts any mineral transporting vehicle, its validity can be checked by scanning the barcode on the receipt, by entering ETP Number or simply by entering vehicle number in the mobile application. However, thanks to the shortage of manpower in the revenue department, the sand mafia has devised multiple ways to dodge the much hyped Maha Khanij system.
Impounded truck stolen from right under upper tehsildar’s nose
Interestingly, the sand-crush laden truck which was impounded by revenue officials from Ghodbunder mysteriously vanished from right under the nose of the upper tehsildar. Suspecting the involvement of the sand mafia behind the theft of the truck, Fafale filed a complaint at the Bhayandar police station, following which an offence under section 379 (theft) and provision of the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957 was registered against the driver and owner of the truck. Upper tehsildar-Nilesh Gaud did not respond to calls made to know his comments.