With a view to reduce the prices of sand in the state, Punjab deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal on Tuesday said five quarries out of 11 had been commissioned earlier and now six more would become operational by January 12.
Twenty-nine other mines will be made functional by February 7 after getting environment clearances from the Union ministry of environment and forests (MoEF), expected next week.
Presiding over a high-level meeting, the deputy CM, accompanied by agriculture minister Tota Singh, reviewed the mining and provisioning of sand and gravel at subsidised rates.
Sukhbir said Punjab had received clearances from the MoEF for 11 quarries, of which five mines -- at Sanghera (Moga), Pawat and Kum Kalan (Ludhiana), Digana Khurd (Hoshiarpur) and Burj Tehal Das (Nawanshahr) -- were already functional.
He asked the Punjab Small Industries and Exports Corporation (PSIEC) to operate six new quarries by Monday - at Adranman and Bassian (Moga), Gujjarwal Bet, Mand Chaunta and Miana (Ludhiana), and Jhugian Maha Singh in Jalandhar district. He also directed the Mandi Board to install display boards carrying subsidised rates at quarry sites as well as delivery points at all 130 market committees.
Reviewing the availability of mining material, the deputy CM said environment clearances for 29 quarries were pending with the MoEF and were likely to get the green signal within a week and be fully operational by February 7 to enable the public to purchase sand and gravel at subsidised rates. Sukhbir said quarrying of sand and gravel should be accelerated to increase the supply in the market and bring the prices to a reasonable level.
He added that the Punjab government had imposed an embargo on ferrying of sand and gravel out of the state and it would be taxed as royalty. He asked the industry department to issue necessary instructions in this regard to all authorities concerned to implement the state's decision at the ground level. The timings for mining will be 8am to 8pm.
He asked the PSIEC to install CCTV cameras at all pitheads in two weeks so that transparency in mining could be enhanced. Sukhbir also directed that helpline numbers should be provided by the Mandi Board so that people could get necessary information, besides registering complaints, if any. He also directed the board to launch a sustained advertisement and awareness campaign to dispense relevant information at the grassroots level.
Three mining zones formed
Taking note of illegal mining and unauthorised ferrying of sand and gravel, the deputy CM formed three mining zones (Doaba, Malwa and Majha), which would be supervised and monitored by three retired army officers in the rank of General. He said these officers would report to the Punjab government for further action. He added that four police officials in each district and three DSPs with one superintendent of police (SP) at the headquarters in Chandigarh had already been deployed to assist the mining officers.
Sukhbir said people having tractor-trolleys could load their trolleys with sand and gravel from nearby quarries after getting a payment slip from the Mandi Board. In an effort to check commercial practices, tractor-trolleys would cover a radius of up to 50km.
The deputy CM asked the chief secretary to submit a report within a fortnight after identifying spots where dredging of canals and rivers could be possible.