Sand mining from river beds anywhere in the country is a social evil. The demand for sand is high because of the construction activities going on. Agriculture land has been reduced and the unchecked urbanization has raised the demand bar for sand one of the main ingredient for construction. The J&K High Court had few years ago imposed a ban to keep a check on the uncontrolled extraction of minerals from the Tawi, the nullah near Sidhra bypass bridge, Jajjar nullah and Kattal Battal. Though the ban was imposed to save the Tawi riverbed on which four bridges are constructed, other sites of mining in the peripheries were not brought under the prohibition. Despite the ban, unabated mining was a regular phenomenon which had not only been causing a huge loss to state exchequer but also damaging strategic bridges, causing soil erosion and impacting the course of the river. Same is the story in neighbouring state of Punjab. Though it had enhanced stamp duties and had announced a new sand mining policy apparently aimed at generating more funds and to tame the sand mafia but still the illegal sand mining continues. Illegal sand mining has become a common ‘uncurbed’ phenomenon in 23 states of India. Every river flowing in the country is being ruined due to this unsustainable practice and is resulting in an ecological imbalance. Both central and state governments have remained as poor performers in tackling the emerging environmental crisis. Auction of mining blocks through ‘progressive bidding’ is a good idea could be worked out to secure maximum revenue for the government and to regulate the unchecked sand mining trade. Hopefully, the government will take a lesson from the saga of previous ‘progressive auctions’ of mines that had raised their value disproportionately due to exuberant, competitive bidding and the winning contractors failed to operationalise these mines. This had led to a supply crunch, and consequently, a surge in the prices of sand and gravel. There is still no guarantee that big businessmen or consortia would not default. The policy is ostensibly burdened with overregulation that leaves tremendous scope for unscrupulous bureaucrats to extort money from the miners’ mafia.
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