Punjab budget session Day 2: AAP, Opposition spar over illegal sand mining issue during Question Hour


The ruling AAP and opposition MLAs were locked in a verbal duel over the issue of illegal sand and gravel mining on the second day of budget session in Punjab Vidhan Sabha during the question hour with AAP MLA Aman Arora referring to the address of former chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh made on the floor of the house on June 16, 2017 after Congress stormed to power and where according to Arora, Amarinder said he had a “ten page list who taken sand mining sites on contract and which led to Akali Dal and Congress legislators retreat to their seats”.

Leader of opposition and Congress MLA from Qadian hit back hard and asked AAP legislators “not to make sweeping statements”, even as Arora asked former Congress minister of the mining department Sukhbinder Singh Sarkaria if he had provided such list to AAP minister in charge of the Mining department Harjot Singh Bains.

Bajwa asked ruling AAP to interrogate Amarinder Singh so that people may see “how much political will the government has”. Bajwa asked AAP legislators not to give “sweeping statements” and “interrogate” Amarinder if there was any such list.

It all started after Sarkaria, in a question, sought to know the rates of sand and gravel in AAP government in Punjab in the light of tall claims of earning revenue from the sale of the construction material by AAP supremo and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal.

Bains while detailing the rates said AAP government will earn more revenue from sand and gravel in one year than what was earned in 15 years by the previous governments. He said post budget he will also submit statistics.

“We are committed to go after mining mafia,” Bains said in response to Sarkaria’s remarks of making illegal mining a big issue and “parroting” sand mafia and putting AAP government under scanner for promises of earning massive revenues from sand and gravel mining.

Calling illegal mining a very “serious issue”, Bains hit back hard saying that successive governments, MLAs and ministers remained involved in the alleged illegal sand mining business and reiterated he would submit statistics after the budget was presented.

Akali Dal MLA Manpreet Singh Ayali said “an independent probe should be done against those involved in sand mafia”.

Sidelights

Former Deputy Inspector General who is AAP MLA from Amritsar North MLA Kunwar Vijay Pratap Singh cited Right to the Information (RTI) Act responses, seeking a probe into award of contract to “lease out” Amritsar Circuit House to a consortium of companies linked to a former Congress minister. Singh named the minister, but the Punjab Vidhan Sabha Speaker expunged his name after Bajwa made a request to that effect saying he was not present in the house. Intriguingly, Bajwa did not request the same when former CM Amarinder Singh’s name was invoked in connection with the alleged illegal sand mining issue which rocked the assembly.

Finance minister Harpal Singh Cheema, who, first pointed out that Kunwar’s question related to Public Works Department but he would respond, asked Kunwar to provide the proofs, prompting a reaction not only from Kunwar who said government should take those proofs from the VB and police, but from opposition Congress also where Jalandhar cantonment MLA Pargat Singh saying that the finance minister should realize the “AAP government was in power and should not ask MLA for proofs”.

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Forest minister Lal Chand while responding to a question Chhatbir zoo said the zoo was among top ten zoos in the country, spread in 202 hectares and catering to 1690 wild animals and birds belonging to 125 species.

Congress MLA from Jalandhar North Avtar Singh asked the forest minister if there was any proposal to close all zoos in Punjab since these were not their natural habitat and affects their instincts. Vidhan Sabha speaker Kultar Singh Sandhawan while maintaining that it was a good issue raised dismissed the supplementary question saying it calls for separate question, even as Bajwa appreciated the issue raised by Avtar and other Congress legislator Sukhpal Khaira taking a swipe at the forest minister for reading out what bureaucracy told him to do.

Sports stadiums – Responding to a question, minister Meet Hayer rued that successive government constructed stadiums with stairs and podiums, but did not focus to develop grounds. Akali Dal MLA Ayali backed him.

Cremation grounds – Answering a question on two cremation grounds in villages (based on castes), Minister for Rural Development and Panchayats Kuldeep Singh Dhaliwal admitted 80 percent of the villages in Punjab were having two and even three cremation grounds. He said government was promoting a 2016 scheme of which Panchayats were not much aware and under which they would be entitled to get Rs 5 lakh grant if they go in for one cremation ground instead of two.





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