Punjab CM makes appeal: In a move to crack down on illegal mining and tax evasion by miners, Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Monday ordered the setting up of special multi-department joint teams, headed by the respective Deputy Commissioners, in all the districts of the state.The teams would comprise officials from taxation, mining, revenue and police departments, an official spokesperson disclosed, adding that they would be mandated to set up nakas to check illegal mining and evasion of taxes.Taking a serious view of the problem of illegal mining, Captain Amarinder made it clear that offenders would not be spared at any cost. Illegal mining and tax evasion had led to heavy losses for the state exchequer and needed to be checked on priority, said the Chief Minister, adding that the state could not afford any more financial losses.The Chief Minister further warned that no political interference would be tolerated in the matter and instructed officials to initiate the crackdown on priority, without delay.The Chief Minister also directed increased vigil on stone crushers, which are located in the three districts of Rupnagar, SAS Nagar and Pathankot, said the spokesperson after a review of the Mining Department during a meeting of the Sub-Committee on Finance.To streamline the functioning of the Mining Department, and make it more effective, the meeting also held tentative discussions on a proposal to set up a new mining department, with manpower to be drawn in from various related departments.Apprising the meeting of details of revenue generation from the mining business this financial year, the Department revealed that with two more auctions scheduled in this fiscal (on February 19 and March 15), the total revenue generation in 2017-18 would increase many fold. It is further estimated that the revenue generation from mining would triple next year.The mines to be auctioned on February 19 include 48 sand mines (1.64 crore tonnes) and three gravel (0.2 crore tonnes), while the March 15 auctions will have 145 mines (2.7 crore tonnes) of sand and 18 mines (0.2 crore tonnes) of gravel being open to bidding.Department officials further informed the meeting that as many as 34 of the mines auctioned so far (spread over 329 hectares) had not yet become operational. Once production in these begins, the revenue generation would be further augmented, they said, adding that earnings could go up to Rs 600-800 crore with just 10% increasing in mining production.The Chief Minister directed steps to ensure immediate operationalization of auctioned mines, and also to initiate wide publicity and confidence-building measures for the forthcoming auctions.The need for identification of more gravel mines was also discussed to plug the demand-supply gap. The total demand for gravel stands at 2.4 crore tonnes, of which only 16% is currently being met from official supply, while for sand, 35% of the 1.6 crore tonnes demand is similarly being fulfilled. The total demand in the state has been calculated at 4 crore tonnes on a conservative side, according to the Mining Department.Prominent amongst others who were attended the meeting included Health and Family Welfare Minister Brahm Mohindra, Finance Minister Manpreet Singh Badal, Media Advisor to CM Raveen Thukral, Financial Advisor to CM VK Garg, Chairman Governance and Ethics Commission K R Lakhanpal, Chief Secretary Karan Avtar Singh, Principal Secretary Finance Anirudh Tiwari, Principal Secretary to CM Tejveer Singh, Principal Secretary Industries and Commerce Rakesh Verma and Director Mining Amit Dhaka.Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh chairing the meeting of the cabinet sub committee on Fiscal Management on Monday. Besides Health Minister Brahm Mahindra and Finance Minister, Manpreet Badal, the meeting was attended by senior officials of the Punjab government.
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