The Punjab Government may have a lot of work to do when it explains to the people that its “record revenue” from auctions of the controversial sand, gravel and aggregate mines amounted to just Rs.43.9 crore instead of the previously much-hyped claims of Rs.234 crore. Yet its Minister has claimed total transparency in the process.
The Punjab Government on Thursday claimed “record revenue” of Rs.14.90 crore from the auction of mines at various sites in Jalandhar, Ajitgarh, Kapurthala and Hoshiarpur districts. The quarries which went under the hammer have witnessed various legal procedures as well as allegations of illegal practices under political patronage.
This was the third time auctions were held for these mines that produce sand, gravel and aggregate, used mostly in construction. Most of the sites are along the rivers flowing through the State. Industries Minister Anil Joshi claimed that the record revenue was on account of “steps taken by the Punjab Government to maintain total transparency in auction and strict action taken against illegal mining”.
He patted his team for the record revenue against a reserve price of nearly Rs.8.91 crore. He said the mines of Jalandhar district generated the maximum revenue of Rs.6.5 crore, followed by Hoshiarpur Rs.3.71 crore, Ajitgarh Rs.2.78 crore and Kapurthala Rs.1.91 crore. He also said that 869 illegal mining cases had been registered in the past eight months alone.
However, on January 11 this year, an official release from the Government had claimed “record revenue” of Rs.101 crore against a reserve price of Rs.4 crore when auctions were held in Jalandhar, Ajitgarh, Kapurthala and Ludhiana districts. Then Jalandhar district had returned Rs.22.12 crore, Ajitgarh had topped with Rs.34.25 crore and Kapurthla accounted for Rs.26.52 crore.
After the second round of auctions that were completed the next day, the Government claimed to have created an unprecedented record of generating Rs.234 crore from the auction of these mines. Following major allegations of collusive bidding, it was decided to re-auction as many as 14 of the total of 22 mines for which bids were called. With the recent round of auctions having been completed, the State Government's record revenue has dramatically climbed down to Rs.43.9 crore.
Following recent orders of the High Court, the Punjab Government decided to go ahead with the auction of 22 quarries whose size varied from 5 hectares to 50 hectares.