LACK OF will and use of technology by the state government in checking illegal sand mining, unscientific way of identification and subsequent auction of quarries, and shortage of staff to enforce rules were among the issues came to the fore at two back-to-back meetings of the Cabinet sub-committee on mining Friday. Chaired by Local Bodies Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu, the meetings focused on how sand mining business worth crores was being run without a proper system in the state.
Sidhu, who committed that the sub-committee would give its report with suggestions for a new mining policy within 15 days, raised several questions. He said 65 per cent of sand consumed in the state was used in government projects. He is learnt to have asked if the sand mining department had ever asked the consumer departments to ensure they were buying sand that was mined legally. This also came to the fore that the department was auctioning the same sand mines again and again without using scientific methods to ascertain the amount of sand. The contractors told the meeting that when they bagged a mine by spending crores, they did not find adequate amount of the commodity in the mines. This led to illegal mining.
In the first meeting of Cabinet sub-committee attended by Finance Minister Manpreet Badal and Rural Development minister Tripat Rajinder Singh Bajwa, Sidhu is learnt to have suggested that the mining business should be decontrolled. Badal is learnt to have rejected the idea stating state was already cash-strapped and needed revenue.
In the second meeting with stakeholders, the contractors alleged that they were harassed as sometimes as they were not even given way to reach the mines and the government should ensure that a system was in place. This also came to light that the department was being run in an ad-hoc system. The reason was shortage of staff. The meeting decided to give a suggestion that they would be given enough staff.
Badal told the meeting that interest of all three stakeholders-the consumers, the government that needs revenue, and contractor were important and emphasis should be on doing a balancing act. Sidhu asked the officials of the department to gear up for effective implementation of the proposed mining policy as the new policy would have bar coded permits having information about volume, origin point, destination and timing. The entire sale would be regulated by an online portal. It would accord a distinct identity to the trucks carrying sand.
The minister (Sidhu) got SHO Paramjit Singh of Sidhwan Bet in Ludhiana transferred to Sangrur after the meeting after talking to DGP Suresh Arora. Two contractors from Ludhiana complained against the SHO saying he himself was involved in illegal mining.
Punjab to use GPS
Punjab’s sand mining department is considering the use of Global Positioning System (GPS) to check illegal mining from headquarters. The department is ready with the proposal that would be taken to the next meeting Tuesday and a subsequent meeting with the Chief Minister Wednesday. If the CM gives his nod, sand mining would be monitored through GPS, said an official.