Online auction of sand blocks: Local contractors left out

Kashmir Times. Dated: 6/25/2020 11:22:58 PM

SRINAGAR, June 25 (Agencies): People in Kashmir are gradually feeling the effects of annulment of special status. Probably, for the first time, since 1947 non-local bidders have been awarded sand extraction contracts.
If you will find the list of bidders and the sand extraction contract awarded by Geology and Mining Department, you won’t find any local but all are presumably non-local contractors.
Tendering process to allot the work by the government has already rendered hundreds of sand diggers jobless.
In Kashmir, hundreds of families are directly or indirectly associated with this activity since decades and earn their livelihood through it.
Most of the blocks of the River Jehlum have all been handed over to non-locals. Some of the blocks include Panzinara to Hargopal Chek Mujgund, Tengpora Bridge to village Hargopal Chek, Choochan Noorbagh bridge to Tengpora bridge, Palapora Bridge to Choochan Noorbagh bridge, Guzarbal Norbagh to Parimpora bridge, Qamarwari Cement bridge to Lift Irrigation Guzarbal Noorbagh, Padshahi Bagh to Rajbagh Foot Bridge, Ganderbal Foot Bridge to Water Scheme Padhahibagh, Pandhraten bridge to under construction Ganderbal Foot Bridge and Lasjan bridge to Pandhraten bridge.
Earlier, local sand diggers used to pay royalty to government and extract sand but now the situation is totally different, said local sand diggers, according to a news agency.
An official said that this time they went for e-auction of hundreds of sand blocks along the river Jhelum and its tributaries. “In fact local bidders too participated but the highest bidders were awarded the contracts. It is good for the department as it will generate more revenue,” he said.
Local sand diggers however, alleged that the terms and conditions of contract were such that only non-locals will were bound to qualify. “We were unable to pay such a huge amount,” they said adding that this trend will render them permanently jobless.
Many local businessmen were left at a disadvantage also in view of the fact that high-speed Internet connectivity remains restricted in Kashmir.
More than 200 mineral blocks in Jhelum and its tributaries across all 10 districts of the Valley were opened for mining of sand, boulders, gravel and other river bed material in December last.
non-local contractors have bagged a majority of the mineral block in every district where the bidding has been completed so far.
In the summer capital of Srinagar, all the 10 blocks have gone into the kitty of non-resident contractors against the bidding amount of Rs 5.08 crore. In Baramulla, the 38 blocks of minerals have fetched Rs 20.15 crore to the department of geology and mining. Of these, 26 have been secured by contractors from outside the Valley.
Similarly in Budgam, of the total seven blocks auctioned at Rs 4.67 crore, four on the river Jhelum have gone into the kitty of contractors from Punjab, while Kashmiri contractors have bagged the remaining three blocks on tributaries of Jhelum. Likewise, outside companies have won mining rights over more than 60% blocks in Pulwama district.



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