Tribune News Service
Moga, April 27
The government is considering to allow the use of heavy machinery — JCB and poclain machines — to excavate sand from riverbeds, quarries of which had already been allotted to contractors through reverse and progressive bidding in the past couple of years.
There are 110 legal sand quarries in the state. For the past six weeks, these were operating at a very low scale, with manual excavation failing to meet the daily requirement of construction industry. It has also led to a manifold rise in sand price in the past two months. Masons and construction labourers have been rendered jobless creating a socio-economic unrest among the poor labour class.
In view of the prevailing conditions, the state government has invited suggestions from the district mining officers to amend the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act and allow the use of heavy machinery for excavation of sand from riverbeds.
The mining officer of Moga, Ferozepur, Fazilka and Faridkot districts, Gurjant Singh Sidhu, confirmed that the state government was considering to allow the use of heavy machinery for excavation of sand in order to meet the daily requirement of construction industry and reduce its prices.
The Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act prohibits the use of heavy machinery for extracting sand and gravel in quarries/mines on less than 62.5 hectares. The state government is, however, under immense pressure from the stakeholders who have pointed out that it is impossible to meet the daily requirements of sand in the construction industry at affordable price with manual excavation.
It may be mentioned that a Cabinet sub-committee is preparing a draft mining policy to regulate the industry and earn more revenue.
A member of the panel told The Tribune that the new policy would also focus on curbing illegal mining by imposing penalties.
At present, a fine of Rs 60 per tonne is imposed on illegal mining, which will be increased to Rs 240 to Rs 300 per tonne. Similarly, a fine of Rs 10,000 is imposed on a tractor-trailer for transportation of illegally excavated sand, which will be increased to Rs 20,000 to Rs 30,000.
A proposal that the government purchases a pit head and dump legally excavated sand in the dumping yard to sell it through online requests at a uniform fixed price across the state is also under consideration. Suggestions of GPS tracking of tippers and scientific demarcation of sites have also come before the committee.
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