Lorry operators in the southern districts have threatened an indefinite strike over what they have described as heavy-handed official action.

Lorry owners from Madurai and Virudhunagar districts said Sivakasi Revenue Divisional Officer Keerthi Priyadarshini was impounding trucks on the charge of transporting illegally mined riverbed sand if water was noticed dripping from vehicles. “Sand gets wet because of the rain. Even the sand at the Tiruchi stockyard is wet,” Ravi Rajan, Madurai district president of the Lorry Owners’ Association, told reporters here on Tuesday.

But Ms. Priyadarshini said department of mines officials were capable of distinguishing between rain-wettened sand and sand scooped out from a river.

“The sand taken from the stockyard a couple of days after being mined from the river is not so wet. We impose fines only on those lorries that carry sand illegally mined from rivers using the permit meant for a Government quarry,” she said.

Lorry operators are known to mine sand using permits for quarrying earth, she claimed.

Sivakasi Region Sand Lorry Owners’ Welfare Association president R. Pitchaimani alleged that only specific lorry owners were targeted, while those smuggling sand from Mandalamanickam and Tiruchuli at night were spared.

The lorry operators of Sivakasi were getting a step-motherly treatment at the government quarry in Tiruchuli, he complained.

Kanyakumari District Lorry Operators’ Association secretary N. Manoharan said officials in the district were imposing huge fines for overloading and minor violation in timings mentioned in the permits.

The vehicles were impounded for 15 days, he pointed out.

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