Punjab government’s sand clusters do not have many takers even after extending the date of e-auction, with three out of seven clusters not invoking any interest among the bidders, one cluster witnessing only single bidder depositing Earnest Money Deposit (EMD) and the rest three getting a lukewarm response.
Unable to attract many bidders, the state government is mulling extending the last date of depositing the EMD.
“We may have to extend the date once again. We cannot just let the e-auction take place with sand clusters or blocks not having any bidders,” a functionary of the government told Indian Express.
There have been no takers for a sand cluster in Ropar, sand and gravel cluster in Hoshiarpur, sand and gravel cluster in Mohali. Only one bidder has deposited EMD for a sand cluster in Amritsar.
While two have deposited the EMD in Ludhiana and Ferozepur each, five bidders have expressed interest in sand and gravel cluster in Gurdaspur.
The government is now mulling extending the last date of depositing the EMD even as it had extended the date of auction and last date of EMD deposit earlier too.
It had previously planned the auction on July 1 but had to postpone it to July 5 as the last date of deposit of EMD was extended from June 20 to June 28. Earlier, only one bidder had shown interest for mining block in Pathankot.
The government will have to take a call not only on three clusters but also Amritsar, on whether to allow a single bidder to bag a sand block or not.
With not many contractors showing interest, the new sand mining policy of Punjab government under which seven clusters of sand are to be auctioned, instead of small quarries, too has come under a cloud.
While the policy is already being scoffed at as it discourages small contractors, the lukewarm response is set to reduce competition and reflect on the high bids thereby causing a further loss to the state exchequer.
The government was not able to auction any quarry during the last fiscal year losing on the revenue.
Even during the 2017-18 fiscal, when Congress government took over the state, it was not able to make even Rs 50 crore from sand mining trade despite having criticised the previous SAD-BJP government accusing them of causing a loss to the state exchequer.
The incumbent government had changed the reverse bidding policy to progressive bidding policy in its first year but the result has not been encouraging.
Several local sand mining traders told The Indian Express that they were staying away from mining in Punjab and were looking at other states.
They said a local liquor baron, two parties from Bihar and Jammu and Kashmir were trying their luck in the business.
“Sand mining in Punjab has discouraged us so much. They have delayed the entire process so much. If the blocks are auctioned now, it would require many months to get environment clearances. Then the reserve price is so high that it is impossible to bag a block,” said a local sand trader.