The recent increase in the railway freight charges and the increasing fuel prices are spelling doom for the construction industry in the State that is already going through a lean phase.

Kerala being a consumer State, most construction materials such as cement and steel are brought from other States. Kerala is far behind in the manufacture of these items, and Malabar Cements, the public sector enterprise could meet only 10 per cent of the cement requirements of the State. Big cement companies have exploited the situation by increasing the price by around Rs.50 citing the increased freight charges as reason. A bag of cement that cost Rs.330 earlier now costs around Rs.390 and Rs.400 in retail.

The Licensed Engineers and Supervisors Federation (LENSFED) has alleged that the government had failed in controlling the private cement companies. The increase in cement price is a great dampener on the plans of an average man who wants to build a house on a fixed budget. Just by the increase in the cement prices, the cost for a 1,000 square building will cost Rs.45,000 more. Besides, the steel price has increased from Rs.6 to Rs.8. Floor tiles, PVC pipes and paints too cost much more these days.

The prices of metal and M Sand which are locally procured too have increased. On the one hand the quarry owners are exploiting nature and the authorities are unable to control them while on the other, unauthorised quarries are shut down in the name of Kasturirangan and Gadgil committee reports, but no measures are being taken to resolve the scarcity.

The revenue and police departments continue to harass people while transporting construction materials. Sand is not available from the river ghats even a year after applying for it. The authorities turn a blind eye towards options such as extracting sand from dams.

With the increase in prices of basic necessities and fuels, the wages of the construction labours have been increased. With the introduction of Foreign Direct Investment into the construction sector, the local small scale contractors and engineers will have a hard time. The government should take steps to protect the construction sector, the federation says.

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