Four Punjab MLAs question tweaked state mining policy

Chandigarh, May 17 (IANS) Four Punjab legislators, led by Kanwar Sandhu, here on Sunday, raised questions over the state's tweaked mining policy in the wake of coronavirus pandemic alleging the state was staring at huge losses.

Kanwar Sandhu, Jagdev Singh Kamalu, Pirmal Singh Khalsa and Jagtar Singh Hissowal are rebel AAP legislators.

“If the interim policy, announced on May 12 for the next one month, is any indication, the state is set to suffer over Rs 150 crore loss, besides causing environment disaster,” Sandhu said.

As per the policy, in June 2019 Punjab auctioned 196 quarries across seven blocks for Rs 306 crore annually, roughly Rs 25 crore per month.

“The people want to know how much money has accrued to the state from mining since then,” they said in a statement.

As per the latest communication from the Secretary-cum-Director, only 16 sites are being operationalised for one month against which a paltry sum of Rs 4.85 crore would accrue to the government.

Sandhu said the reason given for not operationalising other quarries is that the mandatory environmental clearance had not been received. Also, while the government was being denied royalty and revenue on the plea of no EC clearance, most quarries were operating illegally, they said.

Sandhu alleged, the Rs 10-50 lakh “gunda tax” per day was being collected from each of these quarries by unscrupulous elements who enjoyed political patronage.

The AAP MLAs also questioned Advocate General Atul Nanda's April 24 opinion, which has recommended opening up more mining sites to contractors without the tendering process.

Sandhu said quoting natural calamities and emergencies declared by the governments, Nanda had stated that “there need not be a tendering process and contracts may be awarded by private negotiation”.

In doing so the Advocate General had reversed his own October 3 opinion wherein he had said “awarding of such contracts without tendering process would not be sustainable,” he said.



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