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Sand may go out of common man’s reach, but Punjab govt makes a killing

7Officials behind recent auction of quarries claim they have succeeded in breaking cartels and managed to earn good revenue for govt
Chandigarh  :  The Punjab government’s much-touted auction of sand quarries is full of many anomalies and expected to jack up sand prices manifold.
But the officials behind the auction claimed that they were successful in breaking cartels and managed to earn good revenue for the government. The previous Akali-BJP government earned much criticism for cartelising the trade, leading to increase in prices exorbitantly.
The moot question is would the sand be in the reach of the common man building a house or it would turn out to be too costly for him? On Saturday, the mining wing of the state industries department auctioned 89 quarries and earned Rs 1,026 crore. Sources in the department say in some of the quarries, the auction fetched a huge price.
“There’s a lot of churning going on in sand mining and the government has managed to break the cartel, and auctioned quarries at a good price. In case, a contractor who took away the quarries at a high price is unable to run the quarries, he can return the same to the department and have to pay the price,” said Amit Dhaka, director, mining, who admitted that there are anomalies because a new system has been put in place.
COST PRICE OF SAND TO IMPACT SELLING PRICE
In some quarries auctioned, the cost price of a cubic feet sand costs hundreds of rupees. Out of the 89 quarries auctioned, about 60% quarries fetched up to 40 times more price. The increase in cost price would lead to increase in selling price.
An official in the mining department, who requested anonymity, told HT that the cost of sand in one of the auctioned quarries is as high as Rs 8 lakh a truck. To make profit, the quarry operator will now have to look for a customer who can buy it at a higher price. “If business gets unviable, the government could not do much as the quarries are already auctioned,” he added.
TOTAL NUMBER OF QUARRIES DOUBLED
The mining wing has increased the number of sand quarries for digging from the existing 87 to 191. Of the new 104 quarries, 89 have already been auctioned and 15 are expected to come under the hammer very soon. “The department has decided to double the annual sand supply in the state from the existing 1 crore tonnes to 2 crore tonnes. I am hopeful more supply would bring down prices,” Dhaka said.
TOMORROW’S DEADLINE FOR THE BIDDERS
As per the new mining policy of the government, the successful bidders have to deposit 50% of the bid amount by Tuesday (May 23) and in case anyone fails to do so, the earnest money would be forfeited and the bidder would be blacklisted.
“Mining norms have been made tough, so it is not that easy to work in the field as it was during the last government’s tenure,” said Dhaka.
‘LESS PROFIT MAY LEAD TO VIOLATION OF RULES’
Meanwhile, there are apprehensions that less profits would compel mine operators to violate the rules to make business viable. “They might dig deeper into the mines and take away more sand than specified in the contracts,” said a contractor who has been into the sand business for long.
However, officials say they are taking tough measures and improving monitoring to check pilferage, which would be effective in about six months.

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