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AAP govt revises sand rate by reverting price cut effected by Channi

The amendment was approved in a Cabinet meeting chaired by Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann.

sand, PunjabThe Cabinet also approved a new policy for crusher units and decided to impose an environment charge of Rs 1 per cubic feet on output material, which will fetch Rs 225 crore to the state exchequer.(File Photo)

The Aam Aadmi Party government Thursday gave its nod to revise rates of sand to Rs 9 per cubic feet, nine months after former Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi had slashed the prices for the construction essential to Rs 5.50 per cubic feet. The rates of sand at the pithead, before Channi had slashed the price, was Rs 9 per cubic feet.

The AAP government also fixed the maximum retail price of gravel at Rs 20 per cubic feet. The rates of sand and gravel have been revised by amending the Sand and Gravel Mining Policy. The amendment was approved in a Cabinet meeting chaired by Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann.

The Cabinet also approved a new policy for crusher units and decided to impose an environment charge of Rs 1 per cubic feet on output material, which will fetch Rs 225 crore to the state exchequer.

Addressing the media after the Cabinet meeting, Mines Minister Harjot Singh Bains said the rate of sand has been revised as the state government was losing revenue even as the common masses were not benefitting with the existing policy and rates.

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“The previous government had taken a cosmetic measure by reducing the rate of sand from Rs 9 to Rs 5.50 per cubic feet. Nobody ever got sand at the rate of Rs 5.50 per cubic feet. When we checked the files, we found the state government’s royalty was reduced from Rs 2.40 to 70 paise. It was made to appear that the contractors were bearing the difference. However, the contractors’ share was not affected. Of the Rs 3.50 that was slashed, Rs 2.50 was of the state exchequer. The price of sand remained unaffected but the contractors benefitted by pocketing state’s share of royalty,” said Bains.

He said with the revised prices, the sand would be available for Rs 9 at the pithead. “Officials from mining department would sit at the pithead to ensure people were not overcharged and the state’s royalty was paid,” he said.

He said the consumers would have to pay the transportation charge depending upon the location of the mining site. The department, Bains said, will create a mobile application connecting transporters and consumers while the rates will be fixed by the Department of Transport.

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He said surveys will be conducted in the state for sand mining. It will throw light on which areas mining can be carried out, he added.

The minister claimed that the previous Congress government led Channi had also “misled” the people by allowing them mining of soil from their fields. Then government had issued a notification that said that the soil would have to be scooped manually and the owner could not use any earthmover. “Many people were booked for using JCBs to scoop soil. We have changed it. Now, JCB and other machines can be used to scoop soil. Yo avoid misuse and illegal mining operations, permission would have to be taken from the mining department,” he added.

The minister said a policy for crushers too has been approved by the Cabinet and for the first time maximum retail price of Rs 20 per cubic feet has been fixed for gravel.

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He said earlier, any person could set up a crusher by depositing Rs 10,000. “Anybody who had influence or had a kin on an important position could set up a crusher. One could dig from anywhere. Often honest crusher owners were charged Goonda tax,” he claimed.

As per the new policy, crushers will be allotted a mining site of five hectares or a multiple of five hectares to check illegal mining. The allotment of these mining sites will be carried out through e-auction.

“The contracts will be allotted for a period of three years extendable up to four years provided there is material available at the site. An environmental fund at the rate of Rs one per cubic feet has been imposed on the output material of crushers. It will generate revenue of Rs 225 crore. The money generated would be spent on environment issues. The Registration fee for a crusher has been enhanced to Rs 1 lakh from existing Rs 10,000. Apart from this, a security of Rs 3 lakh to Rs 5 lakh will also be taken from the crusher units,” the minister said.

The crusher owners will be asked to put up weigh bridges that will be linked online with the mining department. “The sale of material at the crusher will be monitored,” he said, adding crusher units shall also file monthly returns of the material processed by them. The policy also envisages provisions for suspension and cancellation of registration in case of any violation.

The minister said surveys will be conducted in the state for sand mining. It will throw light on which areas mining can be carried out and will also held expedite environment clearance.

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He said that ever since the AAP took charge of the state, the government is mining 2.5 times more sand than it was done under the previous government. “We have been mining 1 lakh tonnes compared to 25,000 to 40,000 tonnes during previous regimes.”

He said they had received reports of illegal mining from Ropar and Pathankot. “My challenge is that we have to provide sand and yet stop illegal mining. The illegal mining can only be checked with the help of technology. IIT Ropar is now helping us. They were seeking three years time but we have asked for a faster solution. Every toll plaza would have special gates for sand and gravel tippers. Drone mapping would be done. Within 3-4 months, the tippers would have trackers..”

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A government statement after the meeting said that the department will make the payment of the bills raised by the contractors at the weigh bridge as per terms of the agreement. This will facilitate the department to digitise the entire operations of weigh bridge and further reduce the scope of illegal mining.

Instead of earlier practice of issuing K-2 permits, a surcharge of Rs 5 per square feet will be charged by the authority approving the building plans where construction of basement is proposed and the revenue thus generated will be collected by respective local bodies/ Town Planning authorities. This will not be applicable for residential houses of any size or for any other building on plot size up to 500 square yards. The royalty rate of ordinary clay and ordinary earth will be Rs 10 per tonne for commercial use except brick kilns.

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Earlier, while announcing several freebies in the runup to this year’s February state polls, AAP national convenor Arvind Kejriwal had said, if voted to power, his party’s government would generate Rs 20,000 crore from sand mining in Punjab. In the budget for the current fiscal, however, the government has kept a target of Rs 350 crore from sand.

First published on: 11-08-2022 at 09:39:05 pm
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