The Rajasthan government is likely to introduce online auctioning of mines very soon to bring in transparency in a cash-rich sector which has seen some of the biggest scams in the state in recent times, top officials said.
The move, said to be in an advanced stage of finalisation, comes barely a few days after the Vasundhara Raje government cancelled the allocation of 653 mines after a panel found alleged irregularities in their auctioning between November 1, 2014 and January 2015.
Last month, a senior IAS officer was arrested for allegedly issuing mining leases in lieu of money besides extorting money from lease holders.
The state, which accounts for more than nine per cent of the country’s mineral output, has around 33,000 operational mines which employ an estimated two million people.
However, rampant illegal mining – allegedly in connivance with department officials– leads to loss of crores of rupees to the government every year.
Secretary in the mines department, Deepak Upreti said the online auctioning will start “very soon” but refused to divulge details.
Sources in the department including other top officials said that the initiative has been taken to curb irregularities in the bidding process.
“The new system will ensure transparency in the entire process,” an official said.
He said the online bidding system has been prepared by the Metal Scrap Trading Corporation of India, a central PSU which had also designed the government of India’s coal bidding system.
“All the required details related to the mining area including necessary geological data will be uploaded before the bidding,” the official added.
The Centre has already issued rules for major minerals, whereas for minor minerals the state government was preparing same and soon be finalised. The online bidding for major minerals was likely to rolled out by November, he added.
In order to create conducive-investor friendly environment, the state government in its new Rajasthan Mineral Policy 2015 has also mentioned e-tendering and e-auction provision for awarding all royalty collection contracts.
A five-member government panel which had reviewed the allocation of 653 mines, said in its preliminary report that approximately 19,000 applications were received of which 4% were dealt in haste on a ‘first come-first serve’ basis which did not seem right.