While earthmovers quarry sand continuously, small-time players barred from carrying out their job

Hundreds of bullock cart owners and workers, who are engaged in carrying sand from quarries, staged a demonstration along with their family members in front of the collectorate in Tiruchi on Friday demanding that they be allowed to carry on their occupation.

Members of Tiruchi District Sand Cart Workers’ Union ( affiliated to the Centre of Indian Trade Unions), alleged that they have been prevented from carrying sand from the quarries located on the banks of the Cauvery and the Kollidam under the ostensible reason that Madras High Court has banned sand quarrying in some places.

They said that they had been engaged in transporting sand for generations . But, in the name of sand trade,“major loot” is being carried out in which both traders and officials are partners, they alleged. Now huge earthmovers and giant lorries are deployed to quarry sand as against the minor implements used by bullock cart miners. By using these huge equipment both rivers have been harmed beyond redemption and quarries have been dug so deep that they have created huge craters.

The sand that is quarried from these rivers is being transported to other States and even exported to other countries, they pointed out.

They lamented that the villages on the banks of these rivers have no drinking water and they are unable to carry out any farming operations due to paucity of water. Plying of these giant vehicles on village roads have rendered the roads, laid at huge costs, unmotorable. When farmers’ associations and non-governmental organisations moved the High Court, it ordered closure of quarries that have been functioning for more than five years. “ However in other quarries giant earthmovers and lorries are still being used for quarrying and transporting sand.” Just as these small-time owners are being prevented by Public Works Department officials from carrying out quarrying, rendering thousands of workers jobless, the big shots carry on with their jobs unabated. “But how is it that huge machinery and lorries are permitted to continue their operations when bullock carts that can carry just a small quantity of sand are prevented?” they asked.

Official sources, who do not want to be identified, said these bullock carts can carry at the maximum just one unit of sand (100 cubic feet) per trip and it will take hours for them to load the sand and transport the same. They are just small fries compared to the big sand traders. The latter normally carry hundreds of times more in a day than what is done by the bullock carts, they added.