Punjab government approves new policy to curb illegal mining

Chandigarh: In order to bring more transparency in the sand mining business, the Punjab Cabinet on Wednesday approved several major policy changes to enable the government grant contracts by auction of mining blocks. This auctioning will be done in strategically established clusters through progressive bidding instead of the earlier process of auction by individual mines.

The move would help substantially increase the royalty receipt of the State Exchequer, provide adequate supply at fair price to the consumer, and curb illegal mining. The decision came during the Cabinet meeting held under the chairmanship of Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh.

It has also been decided that the Department of Mining would launch an online Punjab Sand Portal for sale of sand to all consumers, small or medium. All transactions/payments will be captured through online real-time monitoring system. The sale of sand would be controlled by electronic documentation linked to central documentation, with modern facility, and the daily progress report would be uploaded on the portal.

The official spokesperson said that to check overpricing of sand and gravel, a cap has been put on their sale price. Both sand and gravel shall not be sold by the concessionaire at the mining site at more than Rs 9 per cubic feet, which includes cost of loading on the vehicle. The maximum rates linked to distance that can be charged per cubic feet for transportation of sand and gravel will be notified.

The spokesperson said that it would be mandatory for concessionaire of each block to notify rates of sand on the new portal to be launched by the department, and the summary of online order, quantity of available sand at mine would be available on the portal.

As per policy weighment slips for transportation of sand with features like barcodes, QR codes will be stamped with the date and time, and vehicles would be tracked with the GPS/RFID tags. The policy also mandates geo-tagging of all mines while conducting physical inspections, and boundaries of mines would be checked using coordinates recorded by GPS device and the monitoring team would be able to check whether any mining activity is going on outside the permitted area or not.

The mines which are currently auctioned would continue to operate till the completion of their tenure and shall be excluded from the mining rights to be auctioned under the policy, the spokesperson clarified.

Among other important decisions, Punjab Cabinet decided to amend the Industrial and Business Development Policy 2017 to give investment incentive by way of Net SGST on intrastate sale. It also given nod to global tendering for the upcoming hi-tech Cycle Valley on a 100-acre industrial park in Ludhiana.

The Punjab Cabinet also approved a policy to allow promoters to surrender their licenses in case they are unable to develop colonies or complete development works in colonies. The policy was necessitated in view of the difficulties faced by such promoters, according to an official spokesperson, who said these promoters will now be able surrender the licenses issued to them under the Punjab Apartment and Property Regulation Act, 1995, subject to certain conditions.

Due to slump in the real estate sector, some promoters were unable to develop colonies or complete the development works in the colonies, and they wanted to surrender their licenses but could not do so, in the absence of any provision or policy.

Meanwhile, Punjab government on Wednesday said that the state has extended insurance cover to Rs. 5 lakh per year per family to all the eligible 43 lakh families while signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Centre for implementation of the Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojna (PMJAY) for 14.96 lakh families.