Chandigarh, March 8, 2018, Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Thursday ordered a Vigilance Inquiry into the alleged nexus between top officials and the illegal mining mafia in the Dera Bassi area, while directing the concerned departments to shunt out the SDM, DSP and SHO, pending the investigation.

While SDM Paramdeep Singh has been asked to report to the Chief Secretary’s office, DSP PS Bal and SHO Pawan Kumar have been shifted to the police lines, an official spokesperson disclosed.

The alleged nexus came to the fore in the wake of the crackdown ordered by the Chief Minister after he spotted illegal mining activity while flying over Nawanshahr and Jalandhar districts on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, further tightening the noose around illegal miners, the Chief Minister directed the DCs and SSPs of the state’s mining districts to expand the ambit of their investigations to cover the owners and actual bidders of the mines, as well as the owners of the equipment used, in cases of illegal mining.

The directive came during a meeting, convened by the Chief Minister, of the DCs and SSPs of the 14 districts where mining takes place in the state.

Instructing the officials not to brook any political interference in these investigations, Captain Amarinder said they should catch the owners and the bidders and not confine the action in illegal mining cases to merely the small fry, such as contractors and drivers.

The Chief Minister also announced the government’s decision to depute one Guardian of Governance (Rakha) at each mining site as a step towards curbing illegal mining.

Asserting this government’s commitment to wipe out the mining mafia, Captain Amarinder said lawlessness would not be tolerated and the illegal miners would be dealt with a strong hand. The government, he said, would address all shortcomings in the existing Mining Policy to bring illegal mining to an end and herald a new era in the state.

Law and order had to be maintained at all costs, the Chief Minister told the officials, making it clear that they would be held accountable for any laxity.

During the meeting, the DCs and SSPs expressed concern over certain lacunae in the Mining Policy which contributed to promoting illegal mining in the state, said the official spokesperson. Under the Government of India rules, heavy equipment was allowed to be used only on mining sites bigger than 62.5 acres, the officials pointed out, adding that manual extraction on sites smaller than 12.5 acres was financially unviable for the bidders, leading to violation of the law by the owners of these sites. The Chief Minister asked the Mining Department to explore the possibility of auctioning only large mining sites which were considered viable. 

A few officers also raised the issue of shortage of sand in some of the mines, to which the Mining Department clarified that bidders were aware of the same at the time of bidding and usually went ahead with the bid only to engage in illegal mining later. The Chief Minister directed the department to ensure only realistic bids in the future.

Responding to apprehensions of a price hike following the crackdown on illegal mining, the Chief Minister said any violation of the law would not be tolerated even if it meant some financial losses till the new Mining Policy was in place. He ordered strict enforcement of all legal provisions to check illegal mining across the state.

The officials came out with various suggestions to streamline and strengthen the mining processes. These included GPS tracking of the tippers, scientific demarcation of the mining sites with proper coordinates, besides installation of WiFi enabled CCTVs at all sensitive check points for monitoring the movement of the vehicles.

The issue of misuse of weightment slips was also raised by the officials, who suggested that these slips be marked with the time of departure of the tipper from the quarry, along with other details, such as area covered. This, they felt, would ensure that the same slip is not used by the drivers to transport illegally extracted sand.

Prominent amongst those present in the meeting were Cabinet Ministers Manpreet Singh Badal, Navjot Singh Sidhu, Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa, Media Advisor to CM Raveen Thukral, Chief Secretary Karan Avtar Singh, Chief Principal Secretary to CM Suresh Kumar, Additional Chief Secretary Housing and Urban Development Vini Mahajan, Principal Secretary to CM Tejveer Singh, DGP Intelligence Dinkar Gupta, Director-cum-Secretary Mining Kumar Rahul besides Deputy Commissioners and SSPs of several districts.