M A I N   N E W S

Punjab fails to check rising sand prices
Ruchika M. Khanna/TNS

Chandigarh, April 2
The Punjab Government auctioned off sand quarries in five districts to ease the supply of sand and gravel and ensure that the price of this basic construction material came down. However, just 45 days after the new contractors took control over the mining operations, the prices of sand across Punjab have shot up by Rs 1,000 per 100 cubic feet.

As against a price of Rs 2,700 per 100 cubic feet a month ago, prices of sand have shot up to Rs 3200-Rs 3500 per 100 cubic feet. The prices of aggregate (sand and gravel) too have witnessed a marginal increase- from Rs 3000 per 100 cu ft in March to Rs 3500-4000 per cu ft now.

Strangely, the rates of construction material have gone up even as the supply has resumed. Before the sand quarries were auctioned, mining of sand and aggregate in Punjab was banned by the Punjab and Haryana High Court as none of the mines had the mandatory environmental clearance.

The hike in prices is despite the fact that the state government has allowed mining of sand and aggregate in February this year, by auctioning off 19 quarries, each having an area of over five hectares and below 50 hectares. Those contractors who participated in the auction had bid very high amounts to gain control of the sand mining operations, with the state government earning Rs 43.90 crore through the auction.

So far, mining operations have begun on only nine of the sand quarries, located across Hoshiarpur, Ludhiana, Jalandhar and Mohali. Work on the remaining 10 quarries, including the quarries in Kapurthala, is expected to begin soon, after the electronic weigh bridges have been installed at the quarrying sites.

Sources in the mining trade told The Tribune that the reason why the rates have gone up was that the new contractors, who have paid a huge price to win the contract for legal quarrying, were now ensuring that all illegal mining operations are stopped. "These contractors have their muscle men, who are not allowing anybody else to extract minor minerals without licence. These musclemen themselves catch hold of all those who mine the earth illegally and hand them over to the police. As a result, these contractors are getting a monopoly on mining, and they are charging as per will," said Sarabjit Singh Dhillon, general secretary of Ludhiana Brick Kilns Owners Association, saying that they have taken up this matter with the Deputy Chief Minister and the Director General of Police.

Industries Minister Anil Joshi said the reason for high price of sand and aggregate was the huge gap in demand and supply. “We are trying to ease the supply by pursuing the case with Government of India, to sanction environment clearance for 89 quarries having an area of over 50 hectares each. Once this is done, there will be enough supply of sand and gravel and the prices will come down,” he said.





HOME PAGE | Punjab | Haryana | Jammu & Kashmir | Himachal Pradesh | Regional Briefs | Nation | Opinions |
| Business | Sports | World | Letters | Chandigarh | Ludhiana | Delhi |
| Calendar | Weather | Archive | Subscribe | Suggestion | E-mail |