Industries and commerce minister Madan Mohan Mittal launched the state government’s foray into mining by flagging off a truckload of sand excavated from a pit in the district’s Dagana Khurd village on Wednesday.
Under the new mining policy, intended to bring transparency to the procedure and control the prices of minerals, the state government had amended the Punjab Minor Mineral Rules 2013, allowing the industries department to allot quarries to the Punjab State Industrial Export Corporation (PSIEC) at a fixed royalty to supply cheap sand and gravel to the consumers.
COST AND IMPLICATIONS FOR COMMON MAN
The minister said the government had fixed the rate of sand from Dagana quarry at Rs 800 per cubic feet. With sand in the market now available between Rs 1,200 and Rs 1,900 per cubic feet, the residents could benefit. However, under this model, the transport cost will also have to be borne by the end-customer.
11 quarries approved
Minister Mittal added the union environment ministry had cleared operations at 11 quarries and were expected to start operations soon, with 30 more also in the queue for getting approval.
“The government had initially proposed to sell minerals at consumers' doorsteps by transporting the same to market committee yards but acting on the advice of agriculture minister Tota Singh, Punjab Mandi Board was kept out of the operation. Now, the material will be available at the pit-head (mouth of a mine,” Mittal added.
“The UPA government sat on the approval files with the malafide intention of bringing disgrace to the SAD-BJP government. The Modi government has done this in no time,” he added.
“To check illegal mining, I have asked for new vehicles and police force for the mining officers and the deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal has assured that this will be done soon,” he claimed.
He added that staff from the industries department was being sent on deputation to manage the mining operations.
Agriculture minister Tota Singh and jail and tourism minister Sohan Singh Thandal were also present. Singh, who had vociferously opposed the involvement of 'over-worked' Mandi Board officials in sand and gravel retailing said he was relieved when the board was exempted from the additional work. “We (agriculture department) were being forcibly involved in the business. Thankfully, we were spared. It is enough for us if we handle paddy procurement,” he said.
He cautioned the industries minister against sand mafia, stating that habitual offenders would try to create hurdles in the implementation of the new policy.
Thandal voiced the concerns of small farmers who depend on retail of sand from their lands.
“The government must watch the interest of such poor people and ensure that they are not harassed by the mining department or private contractors,” he said. PSIEC chairman Shakti Sharma said the corporation would carry out the new responsibility to meet all expectations.