Sand rates soar, construction hit

BANGALORE: The indefinite strike by truckers that began on Saturday has construction business at the receiving end. With transporters staying off roads, the rates of sand have almost doubled, affecting construction activities. The loss due to delay in projects may amount to Rs 250 crore per day, say experts.

Before the strike began, river sand was available for Rs 25,000-30,000 per truck load. The figure now stands at Rs 50,000. Even the cost of filtered sand has gone up to Rs 25,000 per truck load.

Construction industry experts estimate the daily loss because of non-availability of sand at Rs 250 crore. However, they say the impact has reduced as some builders are now using manufactured sand and composite sand with fly ash and not just talcomised limestone. The industry is also worried about the Rs 14 million per day loss of wasted employment.

Truckers under the aegis of All India Motor Transport Congress (AIMTC) and Federation of Karnataka Lorry Owners Association (FOKLOA) have opposed the new sand policy introduced by the government on December 16. It suggests how sand should be extracted but is silent on its transportation within and outside the state. They are also protesting against the atrocities on truck drivers.

Already 632 cases are on going against 150 odd truck drivers ferrying sand. “We will not start plying trucks if the government does not more permits. The permits given to transport sand to Dakshina Kannada district is smuggled off to other states but that is not allowed to reach Bangalore. We don’t want assurances; we demand the government to promises us in front of media,” said G R Shanmugappa, president of AIMTC.

Threat to other raw materials?

Even as the strike is on, one party has also threatened to stop transporting other construction material like iron rods, bricks, cement and tiles. “I don’t think this is appropriate. We have not made our stand clear on this but I think we should give some time to the government to consider our genuine demands,” said B Channa Reddy, president, FOKLOA.

Overall, truckers’ associations have demanded more permits for sand transporting vehicles. Permits are given only for 1,000 trucks which while the number of trucks carrying sand is five times more.

“Those who transport sand illegally should be penalized. The nexus of RTO, PWD, mining and geology department officials and police should be broken. A truck load earns barely Rs 5,000 of which Rs 1,000 goes to government as bribes and fines. Also roughly five crew work in each truck which brings down the income per truck to only Rs 1,000. The new sand policy is anti-truckers,” said Reddy.

Metro work unaffected

BMRC has said the strike has had no immediate effect on Metro rail work. “In most sites, we don’t require more sand. We have begun the process of concretizing. We need sand only for tunneling, but our stocks are enough to meet immediate demands,” said PS Kharola, MD, BMRC.

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