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More than 200 sites have been identified in Uttar Pradesh for auction process after numerous cases related to sand mining pending before high courts and the Supreme Court were resolved, the state government has informed the Centre.
“Raj Pratap Singh, additional chief secretary of Uttar Pradesh, informed that sand mining in their state had not been moving forward due to various litigations at high court level and even at the Supreme Court level. These legal cases have been resolved and the grants in auctions have already been started and more than 200 sites have been identified,” stated the minutes of the Central Coordination-cum-Empowered Committee (CCEC) meeting that was held on June 2 in New Delhi.
Sand mining is regulated by the respective state governments. Across the country, there have been major developments related to illegal sand mining recently. On June 12, Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) held protests across Punjab on various issues, including the alleged prevalence of sand mining mafia in the state. On May 22, Madhya Pradesh government ordered a total ban on sand mining from the banks of Narmada river, which passes through 18 districts of the state. On March 2, as per the directive of Allahabad High Court, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) registered five preliminary enquiries over allegations of illegal sand mining in five districts of UP.
The Madhya Pradesh government has told the Central government that it is revising the sand mining policy. “It was informed by secretary, Government of Madhya Pradesh, that minor mineral rules are being finalised and will be notified shortly and sand mining policy is also being revised. In that rules, auction method as well as collection of DMF (District Mineral Foundation) for minor mineral has been adopted,” the minutes of the CCEC meeting. Sand is a ‘minor mineral’ as defined under the section 3(e) of the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957 (MMDR Act). Section 15 of the MMDR Act gives complete powers to the respective state government regarding the formation of rules related to the grant of mining leases of minor minerals.
To understand the existing system of sand mining in various states and prepare a sand mining guideline which addresses all concerns of this sector, the Central government decided last month to constitute a committee chaired by Arun Kumar, secretary, Ministry of Mines, along with officials from the state governments. The first meeting of the committee took place in New Delhi on June 2, along with the CCEC meeting on the same day.
At the June 2 meeting, Raj Pratap Singh suggested the use of technology, electronic transit passes and surveillance of transporting trucks for effective control of illegal sand mining. He also recommended using scientific tools such as bar codes, RFID (radio frequency identification) tags, GPS (global positioning system) tracking for monitoring the movement of mined-out material from source to destination. He also informed the committee that Uttar Pradesh is considering grant of smaller sand reaches instead of large tracts of land to eliminate creation of “larger vested interests”.