Punjab cabinet approves revision in sand rate, fixes maximum retail price for gravel
The Punjab cabinet has revised the sand rate to ₹9 per cubic feet from ₹5.5 per cubic feet fixed by the previous Congress government and fixed the maximum retail price of “bajri” (gravel) at ₹20 per cubic feet
The Punjab cabinet on Thursday amended the sand and gravel mining policy-2021, revising the sand rate to ₹9 per cubic feet from ₹5.5 per cubic feet fixed by the previous government and fixed the maximum retail price of “bajri” (gravel) at ₹20 per cubic feet.
A decision to this effect was taken at a meeting of the council of ministers chaired by chief minister Bhagwant Mann.
The previous Congress government led by Charanjit Singh Channi had on November 9, 2021, fixed the rate of sand at ₹5.5 per cubic feet at the pithead which has been rolled back to ₹9 by the present government. Announcing the cabinet decision, mines and geology minister Harjot Singh Bains said the previous government had reduced the rate, but nobody ever got sand at ₹5.5 per cubic feet or benefited from it except the contractors.
“Out of the rate cut of ₹3.5, a substantial portion was on account of the reduction in royalty of the state government which was brought down from ₹2.4 to 70 paise whereas the margin of contractors was reduced only a little bit. As a result, the state revenue was hit and people got sand at higher rates, but contractors gained,” Bains said after the cabinet meeting.
He said the royalty has been revised back to ₹2.4 and the mining department will post its officials at mining sites to ensure that people get sand at the decided rate, collect the money and give the contractors and landowners their share.
Illegal sand mining has been a hotly debated political issue in successive governments in Punjab with parties accusing each other of patronising the mining mafia in the state. The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which had blamed the SAD and the Congress, is in the government now and has been promising to reform the sector to put an end to mining mafia. A cabinet minister said the government is trying to bring transparency in the mining sector to plug revenue leakages and ensure the availability of construction material to the people at affordable rates.
A spokesperson of the chief minister’s office said that revenue collected under the information and technology and weighbridge head at the rate of 10 paise per cubic feet will be deposited in the state exchequer instead of being retained by the contractor as is done currently. The department will make the payment of bills raised by the contractors at the weighbridge as per terms of the agreement. “This will facilitate the department to computerise the entire operations of weighbridge and further reduce the scope of illegal mining. A mobile app will be developed connecting transporters and consumers and the rates will be fixed by the transport department,” he said.
Nod to the crusher policy
The cabinet also gave green signal to the crusher policy, making a provision for the allotment of a mining site of 5 hectares or a multiple of 5 hectares to crushers to provide them a source of material to check illegal mining. The allotment of these mining sites will be carried out through e-auction. The contracts will be allotted for a period of three years extendable up to four years, provided there is material available at the site. However, it will not be mandatory for every crusher to take these sites, the spokesperson said.
A fee of ₹1 per cubic feet on the output material has been imposed on crusher for an environment fund set up by the state government for development works, environment studies, etc. The government expects to collect ₹225 crore from this.
The spokesperson said that weighbridges with CCTV cameras have been made mandatory both at the mining and crusher sites to check illegal mining. The entire process of sale of material at the crusher will be monitored through online portal. Under the new policy, registration fee for the crusher has been enhanced to ₹ 1 lakh from the existing ₹ 10,000. Also, a security of ₹ 3 lakh to ₹ 5 lakh will also be taken from the crusher units.