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Kerala Catholic Bishop and five priests arrested for illegal sand mining in Tamil Nadu

Bishop Samuel Mar Irenios and priests George Samuel, Shaji Thomas, Jijo James, Jose Chamakala and Jose Kalaviyal of the Syro-Malankara Diocese of Pathanamthitta were arrested in connection with illegal sand quarrying near the river Thamrabarani.

A Catholic Bishop from Kerala and five priests were arrested in connection with illegal sand mining in Ambasamudram in Tamil Nadu’s Tirunelveli on Tuesday.

According to the reports, Bishop Samuel Mar Irenios and priests George Samuel, Shaji Thomas, Jijo James, Jose Chamakala and Jose Kalaviyal of the Syro-Malankara Diocese of Pathanamthitta were arrested in connection with illegal sand quarrying near the river Thamrabarani.

The smugglers had acquired thousands of tons of sand from these lands and sold them illegally. An FIR was lodged against Manuel George, the owner of the leased land and a Catholic priest in the Guntur Chetty Road area of ​​Kottayam, Kerala, who were involved in this illegal sand smuggling.

In July 2021, the Madurai bench of Madras high court had transferred the case to CB-CID after observing that Manuel George, a resident of Kerala, did not have any land or quarry, however, they obtained permission from the authorities for a stockyard for storing the minerals in Therku Kallidaikurichi village.

Reportedly, the illegal sand quarrying was facilitated by several officials from revenue, mines, police and agriculture departments in the Tirunelveli district. Sabitha, the then Assistant Director of Minerals, has been accused of permitting the sand robbery. Her husband Mohammad Sameer was arrested in Chennai on January 23 in connection with the scam.

The police officials said that Manuel obtained a licence for storing, processing and consuming rough stone, gravel, crusher dust and M-sand in a 300-acre plot of land adjacent to a check dam in South Kallidaikurichi village in Tirunelveli for five years starting November 29, 2019.

The smugglers had obtained permission to mine sand around 300 acres of leased land in the Pottal area on the river banks in Tirunelveli district, as M Sand Quarry. The land is owned by the bishop and the Pathanamthitta diocese, who had given it to Manuel on lease. It is alleged that Manuel George did large-scale mining of river sand near a check dam for the last few years.

In September 2020, the then Ambasamudram Sub Collector had inspected the site and assessed that 27,774 cubic metres of sand had been mined and transported for commercial purposes. The officer had imposed a penalty of Rs. 9.57 crore on the landowners under the Tamil Nadu Mines and Minerals Concession Rules, 1959.

Meanwhile, the 69-year-old Bishop Irenios and 69-year-old Father Jose Chamakala were taken to the Government Medical College Hospital as they claimed to have suffered health problems following their arrest. The others were later produced before a local court.

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OpIndia Staff
OpIndia Staffhttps://www.opindia.com
Staff reporter at OpIndia

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