In crackdown on illegal sand mining, Punjab to form multi-department teams
The chief minister warned that no political interference would be tolerated in the matter and instructed officials to initiate the crackdown on priority, without delay.
Punjab chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh has ordered the setting up of multi-department teams to check illegal mining. Deputy commissioners will head these teams.
“Officials from taxation, mining, revenue and police departments will be part of these teams, which will be authorised to set up nakas to check illegal mining and the consequent evasion of tax,” a state government spokesperson said.
The announcement comes a day after local bodies minister Navjot Singh Sidhu, in Jalandhar, hinted at rampant illegal mining in the state. As a solution, he had suggested that sand transported across the state be weighed at random points and if the bill with the trucker was for a lower amount, the vehicle must be impounded.
“Had the department been with me, I would have taught them (illegal miners) a lesson,” Sidhu had said. State Congress president and Gurdaspur MP Sunil Jakhar had also recently suggested that the government was working on a policy for stone crushers.
In the past, the Amarinder government endured major embarrassment, after the then cabinet minister Rana Gurjit Singh was awarded mining contracts in name of his former cook and employees. Eventually, the minister resigned.
In a meeting of the sub-committee on finance, Amarinder said, “Illegal mining and tax evasion has led to heavy losses for the exchequer. Offenders will not be spared and no political interference will be tolerated.” He also directed that increased vigil be maintained on the working of stone crushers in Rupnagar, SAS Nagar and Pathankot, the spokesperson added.
At the meeting, representatives of the mining department spoke on the revenue generated this fiscal.
Two auctions scheduled
Officials added more auctions are scheduled for this fiscal (on February 19 and March 15), so the total revenue generation was expected to increase many-fold. On February 19, 48 sand mines (1.64 crore tonne) and three gravel (0.2 crore tonne) are to be auctioned. On March 15, 145 sand mines (2.7 crore tonne) and 18 mines (0.2 crore tonne) of gravel will be open to bidding.
Officials added that of mines auctioned so far, 34 (spread over 329 hectares) were yet to be operational.
“Once production begins, revenue generation would be augmented,” they claimed, adding that earnings could go up to Rs 600-800 crore with just 10% increase in mining production.
Significant lag in supply against demand
With only 16% of the state’s demand for gravel of 2.4 crore tonne being met from official supply, the need to identify more gravel mines was also discussed. In sand too, only 35% of the demand of 1.6-crore tonne is being fulfilled.
The mining department estimates that the demand in the state is 4 crore tonne on the conservative side. Health and family welfare minister Brahm Mohindra and finance minister Manpreet Singh Badal also attended the meeting.