THE Jharkhand government has announced it will give 80 per cent of the amount collected from auction of sand mines in the state to block panchayats. This is the first time a state has decided to share business profits with local bodies.
Hemant Soren, deputy chief minister and minister in-charge of the department of mines and geology, made the announcement on August 11. “The decision has been approved by the state Cabinet,” he added.
The profit distribution will take place for the first time in Godda and Dhanbad. Sand mining sites in the two districts were recently auctioned for Rs 4 crore and Rs 5 crore. Eighty per cent of this will be given to block panchayats of the two districts to carry out development work, the rest will go to the state as revenue. Since the inception of Jharkhand in 2000 sand mining was being carried out without any regulation or monitoring. “Through auctioning we will help rural development,” says Soren, adding that sand-mining sites across the state will be auctioned within the next one month.
Chandra Bhushan, deputy director of Delhi’s Centre for Science and Environment, says auctioning and sharing of profits received from minor minerals like sand are mandatory under Panchayats (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) (PESA) Act. Under PESA, it is a must for any state to consult gram sabhas before auctioning minor mineral sites and share the money earned with the gram panchayat. Bhushan says, “The state’s decision to give the money to block panchayats instead of gram panchayats shows lack of planning behind the decision.” He cautions against possible misuse of these funds. “The state needs to chalk out a detailed plan about how the money will be used.”
Activists in Jharkhand feel the decision is influenced by the fact that a large number of winners of the state’s first panchayat elections in 2010 were contractors. Neeraj of Society for Advancement in Tribes, Health, Education, Environment says the absence of a local government in the state for all these years has given rise to contractors who now work as local politicians.
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