Time to mine Punjab’s potential, says Navjot Singh Sidhu
Local bodies and tourism minister Navjot Singh Sidhu, who heads the cabinet mining sub-committee on Monday said a regulated mining industry had a potential to rid the state of Rs 2.5-lakh crore debt and put the state on the path of resurgence.
“It’s time to ‘mine’ Punjab’s potential, which lies in the natural resource sector,” he said, talking to the media here after visiting the stone-crushing belt in the district. “I have visited just one site only and what I saw was mind- boggling. A mineral-rich area of just 500 sq km in the Kandi belt has a potential to generate annual revenue to the tune of Rs 5,000 crore, which means within a short span, we can turn our economy around,” he added.
He said the previous government had given the sand mafia a free hand. He alleged that former Akali minister Tota Singh had a share in stone crushing business in the Hajipur area of Hoshiarpur district.
“If the government regulates mining of mineral reserves, there is no need to levy taxes on the public,” he said.
Sidhu said the sub-committee report was ready and it would be submitted to the chief minister in a day or two. “The suggestions, if implemented, can act as a game-changer for the state’s economy,” Sidhu said.
Asked if the government will accept the sub-committee’s proposals, he said there was no way to avoid it. “It is such a foolproof policy. It talks about the benefit of all stakeholders,” he added. He hoped that the policy will be adopted soon and pave the way for mining business to resume operation.
“We have adopted certain things from the Telangana model. With more number of rivers and richness in minerals, Punjab can earn more profits than Telangana,” he said, adding that with a river line of nearly 1,150 km, we can make four times more profit than Telangana.”
Punjab is facing severe financial crisis. Streamlining mining business can give the economy a much needed boost. From 40 crore in 10 years from mining, we can increase revenue to up to 5,000 crore a year, he added.
He also held a meeting with stone-crusher owners in the district administrative complex to seek their suggestions. Speaking on behalf of the the stone-crusher owners union, vice-president Gurnam Singh asked for the replication of the Himachal Pardesh model of charging the industry on the basis of electricity consumption.
“The crusher owners should be allowed to get raw material from anywhere. The government should charge royalty on electricity units consumed. It will not only end the illegal trade but also bring respite to the authorised businessmen, who otherwise have to live under constant threat from royalty seekers and police,” Sidhu said.