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No specialists in Punjab’s new mines & geology dept

September 24, 2018 06:03 AM


No specialists in Punjab’s new mines & geology dept


Punjab may have set up an entirely new department of mines and geology in April to rake in profits from the mining sector, but its technical staff lacks requisite educational qualifications for the job.

Even the topmost technical officer, chief engineer Vinod Chaudhary, does not make the cut, TOI has found after speaking to staff posted all over the state and perusing documents. Punjab Minor Mineral Rules 2013 make it imperative that the approving authority for mining plans be either a graduate in mining engineering or a postgraduate in geology. Mining engineers are required to have eight years of experience and geologists 12 years.

However, junior and middle-rank officers of the new department, all of whom have been absorbed from the lining and drainage wings of the irrigation department, are graduates in civil engineering. Chaudhary has studied civil engineering and holds dual charge of mines and geology department and the lining wing of the irrigation department.

Mines & geology dept staff not paid salary since April

Even by the standards of the Punjab Public Service Commission, executive engineers of the new department do not make the cut. According to a May 2018 advertisement issued by the commission, a candidate must be a graduate in mining engineering or a postgraduate in geology to be eligible to apply for the post of mining officer. If a candidate does not possess any of these degrees, he/she should have a diploma in mining from the Indian School of Mines, Dhanbad (Jharkhand). Chaudhary did not reply to text messages from TOI and instead directed all queries to the principal secretary for clarification.

When contacted for clarification on the issue, principal secretary (mines and geology) Jaspal Singh said, “The department is looking at consequent changes in rules required after creation of the new department.” Even after five months, the new department lacks facilities, trained manpower and some of the staff haven’t been paid yet.

Several officers TOI spoke to said many in the staff had not been paid salaries since they were transferred to the department in April and that they even lacked manpower and facilities to check illegal mining.

A mid-rank officer of the department, who did not wish to be named as he was not authorized to speak on the subject, said some offices of the department were not even provided with computers, and staff had to arrange them personally. “We have been keeping a check on illegal mining, but the government has not provided us vehicles, requisite staff or salaries,” he said. “A lot of us have been given job roles we know nothing about. We have just started learning the ropes.”

The only experience officers have is the five months they have spent in the new department. For now, all responsibilities of overseeing and checking mining activities in the state have been taken away from district mining officers and handed over to executive engineers. While mining officers would earlier look after an entire district, an executive engineer (mines and geology) heads each of the seven divisions in the state — Mohali, Ludhiana, Hoshiarpur, Gurdaspur, Ferozepur, and Amritsar. The problem is not as pronounced in Ludhiana division, but it is acute in the remaining five divisions.

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