Why ban on sand mining in Madhya Pradesh has been lifted six months on

Rahul Noronha
Rahul NoronhaNov 17, 2017 | 10:54

Why ban on sand mining in Madhya Pradesh has been lifted six months on

The Madhya Pradesh government has unveiled a populist sand mining policy, leaving the field open for the Opposition to attack it on grounds that it would be detrimental to the environment and lead to a loss to the exchequer, which would benefit the mining mafia that has been operating without impunity in the state.

On Tuesday, the MP cabinet cleared the sand mining policy 2017, nearly six months after the state government imposed a ban on sand mining in the Narmada river and mechanised sand mining in other rivers of the state. At the time of the announcement of the ban, environmental concern was cited as the main reason.


That the ban imposed in May had little or no effect on sand mining is another matter, but the new policy does away with the "contractor" system of mining instead allowing anyone wishing to source sand to pay a fixed royalty to the village panchayat or urban local self-government body and extract it.

At the time of the imposition of the ban in MP, CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan had said that the state would move away from sand mined from rivers and instead focus on sand from crushed rocks. Such units were to be given tax holidays too. An expert committee from IIT Kharagpur was supposed to submit a report on environmentally safe mining options. Nothing of the sort happened.

The so-called ban imposed on sand mining in May was lifted on October 1.


Those in government feel that the emphasis on manual mining would provide employment, the cost of sand would come down thereby helping the construction industry. Unofficially, it is being said that the government wanted to do something to placate Sarpanchs before the 2018 elections. The Sarpanchs have been agitating for more power and funds for a few years now.


While the finer details of the policy have not been made public, state cabinet spokesperson and minister Narottam Mishra said on Tuesday said that anyone who wishes to source sand can pay Rs 125 per cubic metre to the rural or urban local self government body— as applicable and take it. Half the amount, he said would go to the local self government body and the other half would go to the mining department that is expected to utilise it for ameliorative measures for the environment.

The policy is silent on how someone living in a city who needs a truck of sand should go and source it from a river bed without someone who can work as a contractor. A four-hour window would be given to the buyer to transport the sand out of the area. The policy is also silent on the role of the State Environment Impact Authority and its role in sand mining. Sand from MP is supplied not only in the state but in bordering states as well.

Sand mining has been a contentious political issue in MP. Reports of what are called the sand mafia thrashing government officials are routine. Even during the so-called "ban months", sand was being mined using machines all along the Narmada in full public view. The CM’s extended family is also engaged in the sand mining business along with people in their ancestral Jait village in Sehore district.


Expect trouble.

(Courtesy of Mail Today.)

Last updated: November 17, 2017 | 10:54
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