With the opposition’s continued attempts to raise the issue of rampant illegal mining ahead of the Punjab Assembly elections, the Amarider Singh government has set up an enforcement directorate (ED) headed by an Additional Director General of Police (ADGP) rank officer to check illegal mining.
A day after the state cabinet gave a go ahead to the setting up of the directorate, the government appointed senior IPS officer, R N Dhoke as its head. The ED will be under the Mining and Geology Wing of Water Resources Department. Official sources said the ED will ensure that those involved in the sand and gravel business do not charge above the sale price ceiling laid out in the mining policy.
“It will also stop unauthorised movement of minor minerals within the state and at inter-state borders in conjunction with mining officials and facilitate prosecution of the accused under the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957,” officials said. Experts in their reports have also been suggesting that riverbeds were adversely impacting the rivers and dependent communities.
Minister for Rural Development and Panchayats, Tript Singh Bajwa had admitted that the mining mafia had not even spared land belonging to the Rural Development and Panchayats Department. As per the minister, the department was incurring a loss of Rs 100 crore annually.
The Congress government has been targeted by the opposition for being lax towards the illegal mining being carried out by the mining mafia in the state. Opposition parties like Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) have been accusing the government of going soft on the mafia alleging nexus between them and the party leaders. Leader of the Opposition, Harpal Singh Cheema said, “This is another step by the Captain government to fool the people of the state and add on to the financial burden. He had promised a Mining Corporation and ended up giving a ED to the people when his tenure is almost nearing an end.” Cheema went on to question the logic of creating an ED saying, “There were already so many departments under the Punjab Police. Could they not be handed over with the investigation?”
Given the frequency of cases reported, the districts of Mohali, Ropar, Hoshiarpur, Pathankot, Gurdaspur, Amritsar, Ludhiana, Nawanshahr, Jalandhar, Ferozepur, Sangrur and Bathinda will be given special attention to ensure legitimate mining operations. The ED will have the mandate to chalk out strategies, measures and methods to achieve its objectives in coordination with the Director-Mining, chief engineers and district-level enforcement committees under the DCs.