‘Crushers allowed to clear stocks, new quarries to stabilise prices by Aug 15’
Uproar over the soaring prices and illegal mining of sand and gravel in Punjab forced two consecutive adjournments of the state’s assembly session on Wednesday. The issue, raised in the assembly by Congress MLA Jagmohan Singh Kang during the Calling Attention notice soon after zero hour concluded, led to a heated exchange between the ruling and opposition benches over Kang’s remarks on “political patronage to the sand mafia.”
Kang said that there was a huge gap between demand and supply of sand and gravel and this had led to an unprecedented rise in their prices, which had resulted in hardship for the common man. In his reply to this, Industries Minister Anil Joshi said that contracts for over a hundred quarries were still pending, because the government had had to defer to a Punjab and Haryana High Court order passed in 2009, which held that contracts for quarries with an individual area of more than five hectares could be granted only after environmental clearance from the Ministry of Environment and Forests. Therefore, only quarries less than five hectares in area were awarded contracts through an auction.
“But the capacity of small quarries could not meet the demand and this led to high prices,” Joshi said. “Also to contain illegal mining, FIRs are being registered, with 74 FIRs registered in Ropar alone,” he added. Kang, however, argued that the FIRs were being registered to harass genuine contractors and pressurise them on the behest of the “ruling family”, a remark that led to uproar in the assembly and prompted Revenue Minister Bikramjit Majithia to warn Kang to present proof before making such wild allegations. Amidst the uproar, Opposition members trooped to the well of the house and raised anti-government slogans, forcing Speaker Charanjit Atwal to adjourn the session till noon.
When the House resumed, Minister of Health and Family Welfare Madan Mohan Mittal said that deputy commissioners in the state had been asked to send a list of new quarries. “The stone crusher owners have also been allowed to