For the first time in the state’s recent history, the Captain Amarinder Singh government has decided to release additional annual sand/gravel to the tune of 2 crores tonnes, through e-auction progressive bidding of 102 mines, to address sand scarcity and curb the resultant steep hike in the price of the commodity.
The move is also expected to push up the mining business’ contribution to the state exchequer multifold, with an official spokesperson indicating that it could generate total revenue of nearly Rs 300 to Rs. 350 crore in additional revenue for the state. Currently, on account of the rampant illegal mining in the state, the government is getting just about Rs. 45 crores from the mining business.
The e-auction notification for the grant of the mines was issued on Thursday, according to the spokesperson, who said the auctions will be held online to restore faith and transparency in the system, as part of the Congress government’s policy of minimum control backed by maximum facilitation and regulation of the mining business to ensure a fair price regime.
The 102 mines, located in 14 districts across the state, have an annual extractable quantity of nearly 2 crore tonnes and will be auctioned with a reserve price of Rs. 170 crores.
The e-auction for these mines will be conducted for registered bidders on May 19 and 20 by Punjab Info-tech through a digital platform provided by their technical partners ITI Ltd. The registration process of the prospective bidders will be facilitated through a demonstration training programme by Punjab Infotech and ITI Ltd – a public sector entity of the Government of India - on May 8 and 9. The bidders will be required to register themselves online and deposit the requisite earnest money through e-payment gateway. EMD will be refunded online to the unsuccessful bidders to ensure transparency.
Dedicated helpline numbers will also be set up to facilitate and assist potential bidders.
The extractable sand released from these 102 mines will supplement the existing and operational 87 mines with a total capacity of 1 crore tonnes. This will help plug the demand-supply gap in the state and will check the sand prices, while ensuring elimination of the illegal mining that had become widespread under the previous regime.
The opening up the 102 new legal mines would release enough sand not only to meet the current estimated demand of 2 crore tonnes, but enable the state to address the additional demand likely to crop up in the foreseeable future, according to the spokesperson. Going forward, the government will follow the same policy of managing the supply side effectively, and will release more capacity on a frequent basis to meet the growing demand for sand in the state, he added.
The Directorate of Mining, Department of Industries & Commerce, is also working on stringent measures to check illegal mining. It also plans to introduce robust technological initiatives to bring about greater transparency in the business. Among the measures being mulled by the Department are deployment of modern slip generation and tracking system and stringent enforcement of rules to ensure that illegal mining becomes unviable, apart from increasing the number of legal mines.