Sand to go unregulated in AP

From ET Realty

VIJAYAWADA: Chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu’s decision to make sand supplies free of regulations is creating ripples. While the common man is hailing the move as revolutionary, people’s representatives, particularly those belonging to the ruling TDP, are stunned by the development.

Political analysts say it could be Naidu’s first step towards reining in corruption. While the real estate sector has welcomed the free sand policy, environmentalists fear that free sand supply policy might lead to rampant exploration posing a serious threat to ecology. “It is an innovative move. The booming infrastructure sector will get rid of the sand shortage headache,” said Y Adinarayana, a representative of builders association.

Legislators representing the constituencies on the riverbanks have been making a killing from the sand quarries. Sources said that every legislator’s earnings from sand stood anywhere between Rs 5-10 crore per month. “Sand mafia’s turnover in the state is Rs 2,000 crore a month. It remains to be seen how the ruling party leaders will keep silent in the coming days,” said a senior official not wanting to be named. In fact, officials from revenue, police, panchayat raj and mining too are set to lose heavily due to the new policy.

The CM made sand mining free from auctions after interacting with senior officials and legislators here on Friday. “Let the government forgo Rs 200-250 crore revenue, the common people should not be made to suffer,” the CM directed the officials. Mining minister Peethala Sujatha said AP is the first state to put in place the free sand policy in the country.

Credai official Sudhakar said the CM took a daring decision to free sand from the clutches of the mafia. The previous system of making payments at MeeSeva and waiting for sand loads had crippled the construction sector as they cannot afford to keep on postponing construction once started. The ugly face of the sand mafia came to the fore when Denduluru legislator Chintamaneni Prabhakar attacked Musunur tehsildar D Vanajakshi while the official tried to prevent illegal excavation of sand. The incident created a flutter, pushing the CM into a corner to defend his MLA.

With the sole intention of empowering women financially through sand sale revenues, the government had handed over sand quarries to women’s self-help groups while replacing the auction system of the erstwhile Congress regime. However, the situation at the ground level deteriorated thanks to the domination of ruling party leaders who kept the sand reaches in their control and made riches.

Realising that the situation was going out of his hands, the CM appointed a cabinet sub-committee headed by finance minister Yanamala Ramakrishnudu, which recommended re-introducing the auction system. The sub-committee, however, fixed a maximum sale price to prevent the high quotations during the auctions and mining of 1.5 crore cubic meters of sand. The maximum price for cubic meter was fixed at Rs 500 exclusive of transport cost.

The mining department will formulate guidelines for the new policy which are expected to be announced shortly. Interestingly, a notification for auction of sand quarries was issued last fortnight and some tenders have also been finalised.

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