As brick prices rise, SAD factions accuse each other of profiteering
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While till date it has been the opposition Congress that blamed ruling SAD-BJP alliance for the skyrocketing sand and gravel prices — the prices have registered a three-fold hike in last two months after ban was imposed on mining — now it is the Akali Dal factions, which are at war over "profiteering" from the shortage.
The Punjab Brick Kiln Owners' Association (PBKOA), led by Kuldip Makkar, brother of former Jalandhar MLA Sarabjit Makkar, on Friday alleged that some kilns are functioning illegally in Hoshiarpur defying HC orders. The Ludhiana District Brick Kiln Owners' Association, closely associated to PBKOA, has also filed a writ petition in the Punjab and Haryana High Court against the "illegal mining", making Hoshiarpur MLA Surinder Singh a respondent. The petition has alleged "collusion" of private and government respondents in illegal mining.
The MLA, while admitting that he runs the brick-kilns, however, refuted the allegation of illegal mining. "I had stocks of sand stored since April, so I sought the permission from Chief Minister (Parkash Singh Badal) and Deputy CM (Sukhbir Singh Badal) to make the bricks and clear the old stock. We are not running the kilns illegally," he said.
He endorsed the views of PBKOA, a non-political welfare body, that it was profiting from the shortage by announcing a strike.
"The PBKOA represents interests of the elite kiln owners who have huge piles of bricks in their stock. By announcing a strike, they have sabotaged the small kilns with the intention to shut them down," said the welfare body's convenor, Karnail Singh Bhawra.
Terming the implementation of Supreme Court's decision mandating environment clearance for brick kilns by Punjab as "reckless and arbitrary", Bhawra said the way the order was executed has given an opportunity to big brick kiln owners close to the ruling party to earn huge profits. "The brick prices have shot up from Rs 2,800 per 1000 bricks to Rs 8,000 in just two months. The brick kilns resume work after rains and have just few months to function. Only if they start working now will the prices come down in three months. But the state is yet to frame a policy on environment clearance, which can be done by setting up the single window system," he added.