Due to the crisis, prices of river sand have gone up to Rs.7,000 per truck from Rs.3,000 per truck before the current round of auctions started and then halted due to protests. This is because the raw material has to be brought from outside the state, industry insiders say.
"It is unfortunate that the state is facing a sand crisis and projects worth more than Rs.3,000 crore have been affected. This crisis has been created by the state government. It is the duty of the state government to facilitate licences and environmental clearances. Construction work has been badly affected in the state," said Arun Pradhan, president of Yuva Jharkhand, one of the groups involved in the agitation.
Then, members of the Sand Truck Association (STA) are on an indefinite strike to protest their trucks being seized and the drivers arrested for illegal sand mining. The STA does not have a permit for sand mining. The STA members had also sat on a dharna near Raj Bhavan which ended after Jharkhand Labour Minister Chandra Shekhar Dubey assured that the crisis would be resolved.
The genesis of the crisis lies in the state government's decision in 2001
not to tax sand and to permit its mining without a licence.
In 2011, the state government decided that the raw material would be auctioned at the level of the panchayats, which would retain the money raised for developmental works.
During President's rule earlier this year it was decided that the auctions would be conducted by the state government at the district level and the licences would be granted to the highest bidder. Also, the money would be retained at the administrative level. An auction was conducted in end-October-early November but was stopped due to protests.
The STA is demanding that the 2001 provisions be restored.
Dubey, who is a minister from the Congress quota, is also unhappy with the highest bidder provision.
"Sand mining should be handed over to the panchayats. Granting rights to the highest bidder is not a right step," Dubey told reporters here.
Jharkhand Mukti Mrcha (JMM) chief Shibu Soren, the father of Chief Minister Hemant Soren, also favoured handing over the money raised from the sand mining auctions to the local panchayats. But his son has gone along with the revised route.
(Nityanand Shukla can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
--IANS (Posted on 30-11-2013)