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Home / Punjab / No auction, Punjab govt devises one-state, one-price plan to end illegal mining

No auction, Punjab govt devises one-state, one-price plan to end illegal mining

New mining draft policy: Cabinet sub-committee to submit draft to CM for selling sand through proposed mineral corporation; notification after cabinet nod.

punjab Updated: May 07, 2018 16:07 IST
Sukhdeep Kaur
Sukhdeep Kaur
Hindustan Times, Chandigharh
The move, according to the cabinet sub-committee, will ensure no cartel is created to control sand prices by creating shortage through hoarding.
The move, according to the cabinet sub-committee, will ensure no cartel is created to control sand prices by creating shortage through hoarding.(HT File)

Courting one controversy after another over illegal mining in the state, the Congress government has decided to end the ‘sand mafia’ operating through the so-called politician-police-civil officers’ nexus by envisaging ‘one state, one price’ formula to end the same.

The Punjab State Minor Minerals Policy, 2018, has dumped both the previous Akali Dal-BJP government’s reverse bidding and the Captain Amarinder Singh regime’s progressive bidding auctions and suggested total state control over supply of sand and gravel through the proposed Punjab State Mineral Development Corporation Limited (PSMDC), a wholly-owned government body.

The move comes in the wake of the Congress government’s progressive bidding policy to auction mines running into rough weather over exorbitant bids and the highest bidders turning truant or failing to deposit instalments.

It will ensure no cartel is created to control sand prices by creating shortage through hoarding. Consumers will be able to hire the ‘sand taxis’ from the sand portal of the government which will have details of each vehicle and stockyard. Each ‘sand taxi’ would be geo-tagged through a radio-frequency identification (RFID) chip to track its movement from the mining site to the stockyard and from the stockyard to the consumer.

To end indiscriminate use of agriculture and forest land for mining, the policy calls for mining mainly from riverbeds. Fashioned after Telangana, which earned Rs 1400 crore last year with 350 km of riverbed, Punjab hopes to earn many times over from 1150 km of riverbed in the state.

On the lines of Himachal, the government would charge stone crushers a royalty on the units of electricity consumed per tonne.

The corporation will monitor all stockyards through CCTVs and each will have an electronic weighbridge integrated with the central server which will issue a waybill-cum-weighment slip with a bar code and QR code stamped with date and time.

The cabinet sub-committee headed by local government minister Navjot Singh Sindhu, with finance minister Manpreet Badal, rural development minister Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa and revenue minister Sukhbinder Singh Sarkaria as members, will submit the draft policy to the CM for approval after its meeting on Monday. The policy would be notified after the cabinet’s nod.

The panel during its meetings had found that no government department had maintained records on usage of sand for construction works. Of the total demand in the state, nearly 65% comes from government projects. The policy has now mandated every government department to use sand from the approved stockyard and maintain records.

It has also brought stone crushers under its ambit to control the supply of gravel. The raw material for the crushers comes from gravel mines in the state and the neighbouring states of J&K, Himachal and Haryana.

It is at the entry points that ’goonda tax’ is collected by the mafia. Though there will be no bar on import of sand and gravel into the state, a regulation fee at the rate of 50% of the retail price of sand or gravel maybe fixed and the entry points would be monitored by the mining department.

On the lines of Himachal, the government would charge stone crushers a royalty on the units of electricity consumed per tonne.

To plug mining by brick kilns, which are presently regulated by the food and civil supplies department, the panel has proposed to bring them under a single department.

Since the contractors who bagged mining bids told the panel that “over-exploited” sites were auctioned without assessment of mining potential, Sidhu said surveys will be conducted in every district by reputed institutes such as IITs and ISM, Dhanbad to scientifically calculate the material available and how to replenish sand and gravel in rivers.

Pegging the revenue from sand alone at Rs 4200 crore, Sidhu said the state can mop up another Rs 1200 crore from sale of gravel. “The 30-km long stretch of the Hajipur belt alone can fufill the demand for gravel for many years and our riverbeds have enough sand, which gets replenished every year after rains,” he said. On whether

the policy will see the light of day, his earlier bill to impose entertainment tax on cable TV network has only been going back and forth to the legal rememberancer’s (LR) office, Sidhu said he was asked by the CM to head the committee and he has visited Telegana to work out the policy. “I can bring the horse to the pond. I cannot make it drink,” he said.

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