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Bihar has suspended 18 officials for corruption. Image Credit: Gulf News archives

Patna: The Bihar government has suspended 18 officials, including two from the Indian Police Service (IPS), for indulging in large-scale corruption.

The action has been taken on the inquiry report of the Economic Offences Unit (EoU) of the state police department.

The sacked officials were found to be allegedly not acting responsibly on illegal sand mining, storage and transportation and also assisting the illegal sand mafia. Illegal sand mining had been reported from six districts of south-central Bihar.

The action comes barely a fortnight after they were removed from field posting for allegedly helping the sand mafia despite orders from the state government to put a stop to this.

“They are being suspended with immediate effect looking at the serious nature of allegations against them,” said a home department order. The state government has also initiated departmental proceedings against these officials, apart from ordering investigation into their properties to know how much illegal property they have amassed in lieu of allowing illegal sand mining to the mafia.

According to EoU sources, the sacked officials from the police, mining and Bihar Administrative Services had developed a close nexus with the sand mafia and were found to be in regular touch with them over phone as was evident from the analysis of their mobiles’ Call Detail Records (CDR).

According to Mines and Geology Department minister Janak Ram, the illegal sand mining in Sone river which flows through many districts of the state has resulted in Rs70 billion annual loss to the state exchequer.

Sand mining in Bihar has been banned since May 1 this year after the company which won mining rights for major quarries fled the scene citing huge losses. Soon the sand mafia got involved in illegal mining in the major riverine areas.

The EoU which investigated the case also found use of sophisticated technology by the sand mafias to carry out illegal mining in the major rivers. The officials were stunned when during a recent crackdown, the police seized dozens of high-tech boats fitted with dredging equipment.

On Monday night, the police arrested 42 people, mostly labourers, and seized 18 medium and big boats for illegal sand mining in Bhojpur district, a central Bihar district close to Patna. The seized boats were destroyed near the river bank.

“They (sand mafias) are exploiting the natural resources mindlessly which is posing serious threat to the river beds, natural flow of water and river species,” Bhojpur district superintendent of police Vinay Tiwari said.

The Ministry for Environment and Forests had in July 2019 raised the issue of illegally undertaking sand mining on the riverbeds of Sone river in Bhojpur district saying sand had been excavated at many places by digging up to 50 feet.