The Punjab government on Monday opened its first sales centre in Mohali for selling sand and gravel to people at government rates with mines and geology minister Harjot Singh Bains saying that it is the AAP government’s commitment to make construction material available at affordable rates. Bains, in another decision, said his department will impose a fine of Rs 2 lakh if anyone found carrying construction material which was extracted illegally.
Addressing the media on this occasion, Bains pointed out that middlemen who are into storage of building material and some transporters were creating scarcity of the construction material and selling it at Rs 60 to 80 per cubic feet.
“We have found a solution to it,” said the minister while referring to the opening of the government-owned sales centre. “We have 2 lakh metric tonne of supply at this centre and people can purchase at the government rates.
One can buy the construction material at Rs 28 per cubic feet, he said.
However, he pointed out that as the supply of mining material increases in future, the rate of sand and gravel will be supplied in the range of Rs 15-16 per cubic feet. He said with the opening of this centre, the loot of people at the rate of Rs 70 to 80 per cubic feet will not take place.
“It is our endeavour that such centres will be opened in each district in the state in coming days,” said the minister. Development authorities in the state have been asked to provide land for opening of such centres in the state.
The initiative will also help in forcing those who sell sand and gravel at high rates to reduce their prices, the minister said.
The minister, meanwhile, claimed that 90 per cent of illegal mining has been stopped in Punjab.
He, though, said there may be some stray incidents in the night and in which FIRs have been lodged.
Bains said the department has now decided that a fine of Rs 2 lakh will be imposed if any truck carrying construction material which was extracted illegally.
If the fine is not deposited within two weeks, then the impounded vehicle will be auctioned to recover the fine, he said.
He also slammed the previous government over the issue of illegal sand mining, claiming that lakhs of metric tonne of sand was being sold in an illegal manner.
Bains said, “the Punjab and Haryana High court banned mining operations in the state on November 10.” But the minister did not clarify the reason behind the high court’s order.
However, the state government after arranging sand and gravel from outside of the state has been daily supplying 90,000 MT of construction material in Punjab, Bains added.
The AAP government earlier had come under fire from the Opposition over the high rates of the construction material in the state.
The Punjab government in August amended the 2021 sand and gravel mining policy to fix the rates of sand at Rs 9 per cubic feet and also the maximum retail price of gravel at Rs 20 per cubic feet, excluding transportation charges.
The illegal sand mining was among key issues in the 2022 state assembly polls and the Aam Aadmi Party targeted the previous government over the issue during the poll campaign.