The State government on Thursday decided to bring in comprehensive amendments to the mineral concession rules pertaining to sand with the larger aim of checkmating the sand mafia and preventing illegal extraction of sand and transportation, a cognisable offence.
A meeting of the State Cabinet presided by Chief Minister Siddaramaiah decided to constitute sand monitoring committees at district and taluk levels to monitor extraction and movement of sand.
Addressing presspersons on the Cabinet decisions, Minister for Law and Parliamentary Affairs T.B. Jayachandra said illegal sand extraction is rampant in several parts of the State and there is also the issue of skyrocketing prices of the mineral. An adequate legal mechanism dos not exist to punish those engaged in illegal extraction, but the latest amendments would regulate the sector.
“We have brought in a number of amendments to the mineral concession rules under the sand policy,” he said. The new rules will be notified in two to three days and it will be ensured that the measures are stringent. The Cabinet has decided to check illegal sand extraction by implementing the new rules strictly, the Minister said.
Now, officials of the departments of public works, mines and geology and revenue will be involved in regulating sand extraction activities. The district-level committee, headed by deputy commissioners, would notify places for sand extraction, auction, monitor storage and transportation of sand. The committee has been empowered to fix prices. Prices of sand vary in different districts, Mr. Jayachandra said.
The district-level committee will meet once in two months to clear proposals made by the taluk-level committee. In the past, no body had the powers to book cases against illegal sand extraction and transportation. Now, it has been made a cognisable offence. The district-level committee will deicide the mode of punishment. The district-level committees have been given vast powers, including fixing retail prices of sand. The price would be fixed per cubic metre, he said.
The taluk-level committee, headed by an assistant commissioner, will comprise officials of the police, revenue, forest and public works departments.
Mr. Jayachandra said the Cabinet had approved amendments to the Stone Quarrying Act 2011 so that development works are not hampered because of non-availability and poor supply. Work on roads, construction of buildings and bridges had come to a stop following severe shortage of crushed stones in the last few years.
According to the Act and the Supreme Court’s verdict, deputy commissioners are empowered to declare safe zones for establishment of crushing units. But many of them have not declared safe zones for many reasons. Only Karnataka has formulated the Act to regulate crushing units.
Under the new rules, the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board will issue licences for location of crushing units and the units have to construct a 15 to 20 ft wall on the site.
Putting a stop to dust
The units have to take steps to prevent spreading of dust to nearby buildings, such as government offices, schools and colleges, temples, State and National highways, he said.