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Punjab govt scraps sand mining contract in Ropar cluster

Punjab govt scraps sand mining contract in Ropar cluster

The development comes days after Punjab mining department terminated the contracts of Ferozepur and Amritsar clusters while suspending the contracts in Ropar, Mohali and Hoshiarpur clusters

The Punjab government has terminated the sand mining contract in Ropar cluster while forfeiting the security of contractors who were operating the Ferozepur and Amritsar clusters.

The development comes days after the mining department had terminated the contracts of Ferozepur and Amritsar clusters while suspending the contracts in Ropar, Mohali and Hoshiarpur clusters.

Ropar is the hub of sand mining in the state as it is situated on the foothills and is crisscrossed by a number of rivers and rivulets. The agreement was scrapped as the contractor failed to settle the dues even after a representation before the department, officials privy to the development said.

The security amount in other two clusters was forfeited due to the contractors’ failure to deposit the royalty. They had reasoned that the quantity of sand available at the mining sites was much lower than the estimates at the time of allotment of tenders.

According to department officials, the defaulted royalty had mounted to 20-25 crore, while the security being forfeited stands at around 10 crore each. The Ferozepur cluster also covers Moga, Muktsar, Fazilka, Bathinda, and Faridkot districts, while the other cluster comprises Amritsar, Tarn Taran and Kapurthala.

After terminating the contracts, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government plans to take over the entire sand operations in the state. “We will push out all unscrupulous elements involved in sand trade and take it in our control. We will make sure that sand is available at cheap rates while the state government also earns from it,” said mining minister Harjot Bains.

Sand prices soar as mines shut

However, despite all hectic activity going on to usher in a new transparent system since the AAP formed the government on March 16, sand prices in the state continue to remain exorbitant, at 40 per cubic feet. A tipper carrying 1,000 cubic feet sand, which used to cost 14,000-18,000, is now available for up to 40,000.

The increase in prices is attributed to the short supply, as sand is being excavated at only two of the seven clusters: Ludhiana (which also covers Nawanshahr and Jalandhar districts) and Pathankot. There are at least 205 mining and excavation sites in the state, of which only 10-15 are supplying sand while the rest have been shut, said officials cited above.

“The entire system of sand mining was messed up by previous governments; so setting things right will take time,” said the minister, adding that the AAP government has already curbed 95% illegal mining. According to him, the entire sand mining operations will be streamlined within a fortnight.

As part of this plan, the department has asked its executive engineers and district mining officers to identify new sites for sand excavation; so that there is no overlap with the sites allotted to contractors who are under the government lens. “There is no dearth of sand in the state’s rivulets,” said a department official, adding identification of new sites will be followed by estimation process and invitation of bids.

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