A month after Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh announced the establishment of an Enforcement Directorate (ED) to check illegal mining in Punjab, the Cabinet on Wednesday approved the move.
The ED, to be headed by a senior police officer not below the rank of deputy inspector general of police (DIG), will be set up in the mining and geology wing of the water resources department. It will also help ramp up the state’s revenues by curbing the menace of illegal mining.
A government statement said the ED would help in checking and stopping unauthorised movement of minor minerals within the state and at the interstate borders of Punjab, in conjunction with the officials of the mining department. It will also facilitate prosecution of those indulging in illegal mining under the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957. Working closely with the mining wing of the water resources department, the ED will also ensure that those involved in sand and gravel business do not overcharge on the sale price ceiling prescribed in the mining policy.
The ED will have the mandate to develop strategies, measures and methods to effectively achieve these objectives in coordination with the director mining, chief engineers dealing with mining and district level illegal mining enforcement committees under the deputy commissioners. It will also develop actionable intelligence for the purpose and coordinate with agencies of the neighbouring states dealing with the issue of illegal mining.
The ED would be headed by a senior police officer not below the rank of a DIG and would be assisted by 3 SP-level officers in the head office. Each of the 7 mining blocks (number may vary as per government policy) would be headed by an officer not below the rank of a DSP, with 21 inspectors/sub-inspectors at the district level (3 per DSP) and 175 head constables/constables under them. This deployment may be altered/modified from time to time, keeping in view the functional requirements of the ED. The police personnel in ED would be provided salary, equipment, arms, by the police department. Any special equipment, if required, would be provided from the District Mineral Foundation Funds.
In addition to the registration and investigation of mining related cases by various district police chiefs (CPS & SSPs) as at present, ED would also register and investigate cases in coordination with XENs, SDOs, mining officers, under the provisions of Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957, orders of the Supreme Court and National Green Tribunal guidelines. It will present final reports (challans) thereof to the respective courts. Investigation of every case would be completed in a time-bound manner.
In this endeavour, districts Mohali, Ropar, Hoshiarpur, Pathankot, Gurdaspur, Amritsar, Ludhiana, Nawanshahr, Jalandhar, Ferozepur, Sangrur and Bathinda would be given greater attention to ensure effective legitimate mining operations.
The deputy commissioners and district police chiefs (CPs & SSPs) will be required to extend all possible assistance to officers of the ED as and when requested. ‘District Level Illegal Mining Enforcement Committees’, under the deputy commissioners, would also be constituted with representatives from among the civil magistracy, district police and the mining department, in the concerned districts, to bring in the required synergy and coordination in operations to be conducted against illegal mining.
The ED would coordinate with these committees and work under overall supervision and control of principal secretary, water resources, and the director mining, and furnish a fortnightly progress report to the water resources minister, DGP, principal secretary (water resources and director mining).
The mining and geology department was recently subsumed in the water resources department. Subsequently, the department has taken several steps to check illegal mining of sand and gravel efficaciously.
Under its new policy on mining, the water resources department has been able to increase the revenue from mining almost 7-8 times. Large-scale police action, seizure of mining equipment and machinery, and imposition of heavy penalties have helped in achieving this goal.
In a major reprieve to the defaulting allottees of all urban development authorities, with the cut-off date of December 31, 2013, Cabinet on Wednesday gave the nod to the Punjab Urban Development Authorities Amnesty Scheme-2021 for recovery of outstanding installments.
According to a government statement, the allottees, who were issued allotment letters based on draw of lots or auction or through some other process but have defaulted in payment of one or more installments due after December 31, 2013, may deposit the principal amount, along with scheme rate of interest, within three months from the date of notification under the amnesty scheme.
The cases where allotments have been cancelled due to default in installments or there is litigation on this count, where installments were due after December 31, 2013, may also avail this scheme. These cases would be treated as if the cancellation was not done, and the forfeited amount would be treated as credited to the allottees’ accounts on the date of forfeiture. However, the scheme is not applicable where physical possession has been taken over by an authority.
Notably, a sum of Rs 700 crore is outstanding against various allotees of residential plots, flats, commercial plots, institutional plots, industrial plots and chunk sites sold through draw of lots and auctions. As per prevalent instructions, penalty is imposed if a person defaults in payment of due installment on time, which varies from 3 to 5 per cent per annum, in addition to scheme rate of interest depending on delay in terms of years. This penalty translates into net interest rate of up to 17 per cent per annum, which is very high.
Government cattle pounds in PPP mode
To streamline functioning of cattle pounds run by the government in the districts, and to effectively redress of the issue of stray animals, the Punjab Cabinet on Wednesday gave approval for running these cattle pounds in Public Private Partnership (PPP) mode.
The Cabinet has authorised Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh to carry out any changes in the new policy, as needed.
There would be no financial burden on the state to run these cattle pounds (except Amritsar and Ferozepur) in PPP mode as these will become self-sustainable by generating the required revenue through various approved activities.
In line with this decision, the Cabinet has also approved an Expression of Interest (EOI) to be taken from the interested NGOs/societies/organizations/individuals/service providers/companies/trusts, along with terms and conditions.
As many as 20 cattle pounds are established in Punjab (except Amritsar and Ferozepur due to court cases by villagers), in which as many as 10,024 stray cattle are managed, with the government releasing Rs 4,385.35 lakh in a staggered manner for construction of cattle pounds and proper upkeep of stray animals. In accordance with the original plan, six cattle sheds were to be constructed, thus making it a total of 132 (22×6). However, in these 20 districts, only 76 cattle sheds have been constructed so far, with the rest of the 56 still to come up.