Legal quarry, illegal mining: Punjab government hopes to find way out
The matter gathered wind after Punjab CM, while in his helicopter, spotted illegal mining around a legally auctioned quarry on the Sutlej riverbed in Nawanshahr, particularly the use of heavy earth-moving machines.punjab Updated: Mar 09, 2018 09:40 IST
The administrative and police heads of 14 districts, where sand quarries are located, met Punjab chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh on Thursday and raised doubts over the mining policy that doesn’t allow use of heavy machinery.
In reaction, the CM asked the mining department to explore the possibility of auctioning only large quarrying sites considered viable because, as per the Centre’s rules, heavy machinery is allowed on quarries larger than 62.5 acres.
Rules mandate manual extraction on sites smaller than 12.5 acres. A number of the deputy commissioners (DCs) and senior superintendents of police (SSPs) at the meeting said manual extraction is not financially viable for bidders, leading to violation of the law at these sites.
“It’s very complicated matter,” said cabinet minister Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa, who is on a three-member cabinet sub-committee formed by the CM to discuss shortcomings in the policy and give a report in a month. “The mining sites are legally auctioned but the method adopted makes it illegal, when heavy machinery comes into use. The case registered in Malakpur (Nawanshahr) exists because of the rules,” he added.
The matter gathered wind after the CM, while in his helicopter, spotted illegal mining around a legally auctioned quarry on the Sutlej riverbed in Nawanshahr, particularly the use of heavy earth-moving machines. He ordered registration of a case and seizure of machinery. A day later, six contractors indulging in mining wrongfully were booked and more than 20 workers were arrested. “We will let the case be shut; we will take it also to conclusion,” said Bajwa.
The meeting on Thursday was called by the CM when he was apprised that certain issues about the procedure of mining need to be clarified.
“It is to be accepted that sand can’t be filled into tippers using manual labour with spades; at least some machinery has to be used; but that’s not permissible in the policy,” noted Bajwa. He hoped to work out a solution within the time given to the sub-committee. Ministers Manpreet Singh Badal and Navjot Singh Sidhu are also members of the sub-committee; both were present at the meeting, where DCs and SSPs of Nawanshahr, Rupnagar, Mohali, Khanna, Ludhiana, Jalandhar, Moga, Pathankot, Hoshiarpur, Amritsar, Tarn Taran and Ferozepur were in attendance.
It was also discussed to shift to traditional methods of allowing the end users “take away as much sand they want”, said an officer present in the meeting, on condition of anonymity. “The financial and legal implications need to be watched,” he added.
There are strict norms fixed by the National Green Tribunal as irresponsible mining leads to serious environment issues. In the past the tribunal had stopped mining in some of the quarries of Punjab and Haryana.
On apprehensions of sand price rise after crackdown on illegal mining, the CM ordered for strict enforcement of all legal provisions, officials said.
Among suggestions was use of GPS to track tippers; scientific demarcation of mining sites with coordinates; and installation of internet-enabled CCTV cameras at all sensitive checkpoints for monitoring movement of vehicles. To check misuse of ‘weightment’ slips, it was suggested that these be marked with the time of departure of the tipper from the quarry.