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Green hurdle for sand mining

Ranchi, Dec. 19: Chief minister Hemant Soren today expressed the state government’s inability to allow sand mining in Jharkhand as yet in the light of strict environmental norms imposed by the National Green Tribunal.

The chief minister, who recently decided to hand over management of riverbanks to panchayati raj bodies, said the government would approach the Supreme Court for a relief.

“Sand mining cannot be started unless the state gets a relief from the apex court, which is expected to take up the case in January,” he told the Assembly during a special debate on sand mining this afternoon.

Sand mining came to a standstill across Jharkhand in August-September after the government decided to follow auction route to hand over riverbeds to private firms.

Though the state cabinet has now handed over sand beds to panchayat bodies, mining has not started yet.

The Opposition, nevertheless, demanded that mining be started within a day as livelihood of thousands of people across the state was at stake.

The Opposition also demanded a CBI probe into alleged irregularities in sand mine auctions.

BJP’s C.P. Singh said the government had opted for open auction to benefit the chief minister’s younger brother Basant Soren.

Refuting the charges, the chief minister said the cabinet had already taken a policy decision to restore panchayat bodies’ right on sand ghats.

In the first half of the day, the government promised to rectify all anomalies in the Ranchi master plan that outlined the city’s infrastructure needs for the next 25 years.

Also, it agreed to form an inquiry headed by chief secretary R.S. Sharma to probe alleged irregularities in selection of franchisees for distribution of electricity in the state capital and Jamshedpur.

Through a call attention motion, Jharkhand Janadhikar Manch member Bandhu Tirkey pointed out several mistakes in the Ranchi master plan prepared by Jaipur-based consultancy firm.

Tirkey demanded that the proposed master plan be declared null and void and the Jaipur-based firm be taken to task. On this, parliamentary affairs minister Rajendra Prasad Singh informed the House that the anomalies would be rectified by the end of this month.