Sensing that the high sand prices may prove them costly in the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections as the opposition has been targeting the ruling coalition on the issue, the Punjab government has decided to open sand mandis to directly sell sand at reserve price to the public.
The government will provide sand at select points. For transportation, the district administration will tie up with the truck unions, which have to bid on competitive basis for ferrying sand from quarries to the mandi, from where the customer can get this.
For speedy implementation, the state government has told all deputy commissioners to personally monitor it. The aim is to cut the sand prices in the next two months.
Currently, a truck of 1,000 sq ft sand sells at Rs 35,000 to Rs 45,000, whereas the government gets only Rs 150 to Rs 300 as royalty and the rest goes into the pocket of mafia, which operates under alleged political patronage.
"The project is aimed at bringing down the sand prices. The department has asked deputy commissioners to personally implement it with utmost priority," said Madan Mohan Mittal, minister for industries and mining.
"The idea is to bridge the gap between demand and supply by providing sand in the open market. As the mining contractor charges royalty fee, the government will arrange the sand at select points in the districts to make it openly available," said Mittal.
He blamed the UPA government at the Centre for delay in the project. "The environment ministry delayed the clearance to Punjab mining, which pushed up the prices," he added.
Deputy commissioner GK Singh said the district administration had already fixed sand-selling centres at Patiala, Nabha, Patran and Rajpura grain markets, where the orders can be placed with the mandi board officials. The ADC (development) will monitor its day-to-day implementation so that the price of sand comes down with immediate effect. He said the administration had floated tenders for transportation of sand from quarries to the grain markets.
The sand prices will be fixed after the district administration gets the quotations of transportation of sand from quarries to mandis. A three-member committee of ADC (D), District Mandi Officer and general manager, industries department, of each district will set the prices of sand once they finalise the tender of transportation.
"The committee has been set up to finalise the rates in every district. I can't comment on the exact amount, but it would be almost 50% to 70% less than the prevailing market rate, as we will charge only transportation, royalty of contractor and labour plus some minimal amount for administrative expenditures to keep running such sand-selling centres," said the minister.