Ignoring Local Bodies Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu’s suggestion of setting up a corporation to sell sand, the Punjab government is preparing to auction mines in clusters, instead of separate mines.
By auctioning mines in clusters, the Department of Mines hopes to sell sand at Rs 1,800 to Rs 2,000 per tractor-trolley to the end consumer, earn Rs 300 crore for the state exchequer and check illegal mining.
Sources said that under the new policy, rivers would be divided in clusters. The large chunk of areas, having mineable sand, would be auctioned.
Earlier, the government had demarcated each village alongside rivers as a separate mine. Abut 300 mines had been identified earlier. “We are yet to calculate the total number of clusters to be auctioned. We are in a hurry as the monsoon is over and the mining season commences October 1,” said a mining department official.
The department was giving final touches to the new policy to table it before the Cabinet, scheduled on Thursday. But it was postponed for October 3, in the evening.
The official said the decision was being mulled to discourage illegal sand mining. “With the auctioning of clusters, the contractors would have large areas to mine the sand. This would not give them an opportunity to look outside their area,” said the official.
The government has already made it clear they would continue with the progressive bidding policy, a decision taken last year under which the highest bidder secures the mine. The previous SAD-BJP government was allotting mines through a reverse bidding policy. The Congress government, after taking over in March 2017, had stated their predecessor’s policy was causing losses to the exchequer and hence they chose progressive bidding.
If the government goes ahead with the policy, say those involved in the business, the process would be detrimental for the smaller contractors, leaving the field open for a few bigger contractors.
“The small mines are already bid for crores. If, for instance, they club 10 mines to form a cluster, the bid price would be much higher. Only a few people would be able to bid for it. Or, the policy would encourage people to form a cartel. There would again be no competition and the government would tend to lose revenue.”
A government functionary, however, said, “The small contractors can always come together to bag the clusters. The best part of this policy would be that it would leave no room for illegal mining. Also, we would be able to monitor large clusters by GPS from the headquarters only.
Earlier, we were not even able to demarcate them, leave aside the monitoring part.”