Continuing the blame game between the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and its coalition partner, the BJP, over illegal mining, Punjab local bodies minister Anil Joshi on Monday hit back at deputy chief minister Sukhbir Badal for his comments in an interview in Hindustan Times (June 7).
Sukhbir had told HT that the saffron party should come clean on the issue, not the SAD, since the mining and industries department in Punjab was held by the BJP.
Joshi, who was the industries minister in the Parkash Singh Badal government before getting the charge of local bodies, said, “Checking illegal mining or any kind of theft is the job of the home department, which controls the Punjab Police, but the latter failed to do it.”
“Holding the industries portfolio, the BJP tried its best to check the ille g al practice that is to blame for the soaring prices of sand and gravel in the state. It was the BJP’s industries ministers who brought in the new mining policy that aimed at giving relaxation for mining in areas up to 10 hectares. During my tenure as the industries minister, the maximum numbers of FIRs were registered for illegal mining,” Joshi said.
The minister was here on Monday to attend a meeting of officials of the civic body.
THE ROOT CAUSE
Elaborating upon his charge against the home department, the minister said the root cause of illegal mining in Punjab was then Congress-led UPA government’s ‘tedious’ procedure for giving environmental and other clearances to various mining projects.
“This decreased the availability of sand and gravel. Because of the shortage, people started black marketeering and illegal mining. But the powers for checking illegal activities are with the Punjab Police. Chorirokna department dakamnahin, police da hai. (Stopping thefts is the job of the police, not of the industry department),” said Joshi.
Sukhbir, in his interview to Hindustan Times, had said, “The mining department is with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and their ministers knows what’s happening on the sand issue. How can they say that the government should come clean? Rather, they should come clean. If they have any infor mation, why don’t they reveal it?”
When Joshi was asked if he was specifically blaming Sukhbir for illegal mining as the latter controlled the home department in Punjab, the local bodies minister replied, “I have given my answer. It’s up to you to write who is right and who is wrong.”
On property tax, Joshi said the new amendments would come into force from the current fiscal.
“For the last fiscal (2013-14), people have to deposit property tax as per the previous format,” the minister said.