Government to issue fresh leases for stone quarrying in State

Government to issue fresh leases  for stone quarrying in State

Close on the heels of relaxing rules on fixing safer zones for locating stone-crushing units, the State Cabinet on Friday decided to issue fresh leases for stone quarrying in the State. 

Briefing reporters on the Cabinet decision, Law Minister T B Jayachandra said about 3,000 applications seeking permission for stone quarrying were pending before the government for the last three years. The Cabinet decision will help the construction industry as it will ensure availability of crushed stones and boulders in adequate quantity, he added.

The decision has raised many eyebrows as several politicians, including some senior Cabinet ministers, own and operate stone quarries and crushing units across the State. In a recent decision, the Cabinet decided to relax rules on safer zones against the Karnataka High Court fixing guidelines for this purpose.

Licence Raj

Jayachandra said the Karnataka High Court had ordered that stone quarries in the State should be auctioned and they should not be allotted by issuing licence. The order was subsequently challenged in the Supreme Court, which stayed it. As there is a demand for allotment of new quarries, it was decided to go back to the old licence system. But permission will be subjected to the final verdict of the Supreme Court.

“The apex court has ordered that coal blocks should be auctioned. We do not know what judgement the apex court will give on stone quarries. Hence, it was decided to put a condition for issuing new licences,” he said. The minister defended the decision saying that stone comes under the Karnataka Minor Minerals Concession Rules. Unlike iron ore mining, stone quarries are very small. Each of these leases are located on a maximum of five acres. Licences will be issued on a first-come-first-serve basis for a period of five years, he said.

Regularisation scheme

The Cabinet also fixed the fee to be collected for regularising residential houses built illegally on government land in rural areas in the State. Those occupying houses on plots measuring up to 30 X 40 sq ft will have to pay 10 per cent of the guidance value and 20 per cent of the guidance value for houses on plots measuring up to 60 X 40 sq ft. For SCs/STs, women and widows, five per cent (up to 30 X 40 sq ft) and 10 per cent (up to 40 X 60 sq ft) will be charged, the minister said.

However, houses located on plots measuring more than 40 X 60 sq ft will not be regularised. The government has already passed an amendment bill – the Karnataka Land Revenue Act, 1964 – for implementing the regularisation scheme. January 1, 2012, has been fixed as the cutoff date under the scheme. The government is yet to decide on the date for implementation of the scheme. 

This apart, the Cabinet decided to double the supply of wheat to all BPL card holders. The government was providing 2 kg, 3 kg and 5 kg wheat to one unit, two unit and three unit families, respectively, in 13 North Karnataka districts. This scale will be doubled now.The decision was taken as there is a demand for supply of wheat, he said.

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