Amid the crackdown on illegal mining, Punjab industries minister Madan Mohan Mittal on Friday blamed the union government for the paucity and consequent high price of construction material sand and gravel in the state.
He accused the Centre of delaying sanctions on purpose. "In the garb of (waiting for) environmental clearance, the UPA (United Progressive Alliance) government is holding our mining operations for ransom," Mittal claimed in a statement issued here.
Without identifying any official accountable at the Centre for the delay in clearing the state's mining projects, the minister said the state Congress unit should ask own union minister to clear the sites for the sake of open availability of the material and price decline. Mittal said the Centre's tactic was to bring bad name to the Punjab government in view of the coming Lok Sabha elections.
Chief minister Parkash Singh Badal had taken up the issue of clearance of mines before the Centre many times, said Mittal, asking Punjab Congress president Partap Singh Bajwa to get his party's central leaders to clear 4,000 acres for mining instead of criticising the state government on the quarrying issue. "If all these sites get clearance, Punjab will have surplus sand and gravel, which will lead to the material's easy availability and cheaper rates," he said.
The state had given the union ministry of environment and forests a list of 62 mining sites covering 2,500 acres for environmental clearance but the matter was pending since January 2010, said the industries minister. "The union ministry is raising unnecessary objections repeatedly. Even the 17 mining sites covering 1,561 acres that have been cleared have not been transferred to mining contractors, so mining at these sites remains blocked," Mittal added.
In September 2013, Punjab's principal secretary for industries also had written to the union forest ministry's secretary for transferring the 17 sites to contractors, the minister further said.