Punjab Mining and Geology minister Sukhbinder Singh Sarkaria on Wednesday said that former minister Navjot Singh Sidhu’s idea of generating Rs 4000 crore revenue from mining in the state was “totally useless” and had it been of any worth the state government would have implemented it.
As chairman of Cabinet sub-committee on mining, Sidhu had hailed Telangana model of mining policy after a visit to that state and had projected that Punjab had potential to earn Rs 4000 crore annually through mining in state’s rivers.
Sarkaria was responding to a supplementary question by AAP MLA Aman Arora during Question Hour as the issue of illegal mining was raised not only by opposition legislators but by Congress legislator Sangat Singh Gilzian also who said attempts were on to do illegal mining on either side of Beas river in Urmar constituency that he represents.
As Sarkaria said government was set to earn Rs 306 crore from auction of quarries and SAD legislators raised question on the actual revenue earned, Arora referred to “report” of Cabinet sub-committee on mining where Sidhu had said that Punjab could earn Rs 4000 crore annually from mining and demanded that the “report” be tabled in Vidhan Sabha for “future course correction”.
Sarkaria said when the CM had formed that committee, which also had Manpreet Singh Badal and Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa on board, he (Sarkaria) did not have the portfolio of Mining and Geology. “When I got this portfolio, I was there in the last meeting of the committee…Sidhu sahib had mooted some idea of his which he brought from Telangana. He had said that if we do it in some particular way then this much amount can be earned. But that was totally useless thing. We also did a study on that. If we can take it (revenue from auction of quarries) from Rs 35 crore to Rs 306 crore, had there been a potential to earn that much we would have scaled it to Rs 3000 crore.”
Earlier, Gilzian said he would go on to sacrifice his life to ensure that sand was not mined from the river.
Gilzian said some people had been trying to do illegal mining for past three years but he had been thwarting those attempts. “Now I have come to know that on the either side of the river weigh bridges have started to come up. I request those who are setting up weigh bridges that go to your homes. I will not let sand taken out from the river at any cost. The sand will be taken out only over my dead body,” Gilzian said, asking Sarkaria to explain about the weighing bridges. He raised a concern that illegal mining could change the course of the river and sweep away the villages.
Sarkaria said that it was must to have weigh bridges at legal quarries where a weighment slip was issued. He said any truck or trolley carrying sand without that slip was considered to be an illegal mining activity and he had directed that action be taken in such cases.
Sarkaria blamed ten-year rule of SAD-BJP government for illegal mining and said the mining mafia started during that time. He said while SAD-BJP government earned Rs 35 to Rs 40 crore from the auction of mining quarries, the Congress government would earn Rs 306 crore from the auction of quarries done between July and September last year on the basis of new policy. Rebutting remarks of SAD MLAs N K Sharma, Kanwarjit Singh Rozy Barkandi and Harinderpal Singh Chandumajra on the issue, Sarkaria said there was a “loot” of Rs 3000 crore which otherwise would have to come to State exchequer in ten year rule of SAD.
Sarkaria said after auction of quarries between July and September last year, the state government had till now earned Rs 110 crore revenue and by March another Rs 40 to Rs 45 crore would be added. He claimed there would be seven per cent increase in the revenue every year, and in third year the revenue will be Rs 350 crore.
Muktsar MLA and SAD leader Rozy Barkandi pointed out that delay in giving environment clearance, and said: “Was that not a loot of State exchequer. Where has the rate (of sand) reached now?”
SAD’s Derabassi MLA, N K Sharma, alleged that illegal mining was going on in full swing in his constituency. He added that there was rampant illegal mining along Lion Safari at Chhatbir Zoo.
Earlier, while responding the question by Congress MLA Santokh Singh Bahalaipur, who sought to know if there was any plan to desilt Beas river falling in Baba Bakala constituency he represents, Sarkaria said a proposal for desilting of all the three rivers of Punjab had been sent to Punjab Advocate General for legal opinion.
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