Mining whip hits construction in Bihar, govt to take over the trade
Deputy chief minister Sushil Kumar Modi has been linking the sand-mining business to RJD chief Lalu Prasad.india Updated: Sep 11, 2017 19:12 IST
An ongoing government crackdown on illegal mining has hit sand supply for construction work in Patna and neighbouring districts of Bihar. Many builders have been forced to halt work for now due to a shortage in supply or higher costs, leaving thousands of labourers and others associated with the trade, unemployed.
“In the New Patna area, which has been witnessing construction boom, work has stopped at 900 under-construction buildings,” said Vishnu Kumar, a construction engineer in Danapur.
“Sand brought from outside costs Rs 8000-10,000 per tractor. Earlier it was available at Rs 3000 per tractor.”
Sand mining is a high-stakes business, and the estimated trade ranges between Rs 7000 and Rs 8000-crore annually, though Bihar government earns revenue of nearly Rs 500-crore out of it..
Police are cracking the whip on illegal sand mafia through raids in Patna, Maner, Ara and other districts and have seized huge stocks of sand. So far, police have confiscated 40 Poclain machines (meant for quarrying sand) and more than 600 trucks and arrested over 200 persons. The law prohibits mining on the riverbed during monsoon (July 1 to September 30).
The crackdown started soon after the new NDA government took over amid allegations of sand mafia’s links with the Rashtriya Janata Dal. Deputy chief minister Sushil Kumar Modi has been linking the sand-mining business to RJD chief Lalu Prasad for a long time.
In the face of crisis, representatives of the real estate sector, chamber of commerce and industries recently called on Sushil Kumar Modi, who is said to have assured them that the seized stocks would be released. But the government has announced an auction of the same.
“We have around 75-lakh CFT seized stock of sand in Patna and Saran and auction at the two places will be held on September 11-12,” said state’s mines director Satish Kumar Singh.
Also, the state’s department of mines and geology is working on a new policy -- Bihar minor mineral rules, 2017 -- for complete takeover of the trading business, following the cancellation of all the existing licenses. Mining of sand and trading will not be with the same person anymore. The move, which has been approved by chief minister Nitish Kumar, is aimed at cleaning the system besides generating additional revenue directly to the government and address growing environmental concerns.
Principal secretary, mines and geology, KK Pathak has also asked concerned district magistrates to serve show-cause notices to all the 25 license holders for not adhering to environmental guidelines/ laid down tender provisions and mining beyond the approved area.
“We expect revenue from sand mining to increase 10 times to reach around 5000-crore once the loopholes are plugged,” said Singh.
In Bihar, mining lease has been settled in favour of 25 companies, allegedly owned by powerful people. Bihar’s unprecedented floods this year -- which have claimed over 520 lives – have been blamed on indiscriminate sand mining as one of the reasons. The weakening of embankments due to unplanned mining activities was cited as one of the key reasons behind Gandak breaches.
“Due to mining, there are topographical changes in the river, causing depositions in the form of siltation. That causes floods,” said VS Dubey of the department of geology, Patna University.