GUWAHATI: The State government has decided to bring sand, gravel and stone under the Department of Mines and Minerals from the Environment and Forest Department. The very purposes of this shifting of jurisdiction are gearing up revenue earning and checking irregularities.
The Department of Mines and Minerals has its branches in 30 of the 34 districts in the State. The State Government has asked the deputy commissioners of the 30 districts to do all spade works in sync with the jurisdictional change in sand, gravel and stone. The Government has a target of earning revenue to the tune of Rs 1,800 crore to Rs 5,000 crore annually only from sand, gravel and stone only.
According to official sources, the Government will make this jurisdictional change effective soon after the Budget Session through an Ordinance.
In the existing system, sand, gravel and stone come under the Environment and Forest Department. While the deputy commissioners issue permissions for extracting these three resources outside forest areas, the Department of Geology and Mining gives the modalities for their extraction and quarrying. The Forest Department can only check illegal transportation of these three materials and impose fines.
The plain truth is that around 65 per cent of revenue for the Forest Department comes from sand, gravel and stone and 27 per cent from silt and clay. According to official records, in fiscal 2018-19, the Forest Department earned Rs 107 crore revenue from sand, stone and gravel; Rs 45 crore from silt and clay and Rs 2.70 crore from timber and firewood.
And most of the irregularities take place in the transportation of sand, gravel and stone. Truckers carry these three materials day in, day out. There are allegations that one transit pass for one truck of sand, gravel or stone makes the passage of ten such trucks possible. There also allegations of rampant extraction of silt and clay in the State. How it is possible without any nexus between forest officials and unscrupulous traders is an open question. The Government has decided this by considering all such irregularities.