Thousands of daily-wage labourers jobless as transporters’ strike stalls construction work

“Our lives have been disrupted several times in the past because of such strikes. But we have no say in this as we are only workers,” Mahadevaiah, a construction worker in Bangalore, rued.

He is among thousands of construction workers whose livelihood has been hit with the strike called by sand transporters bringing construction activity to a standstill. The strike entered its eighth day on Monday.

Lorry owners have been demanding that the Public Works Department supply more sand from riverbeds.

“Without work, we are living on loans taken from people whom we know or contractors with whom we work. We can’t even work elsewhere as we don’t know anything else,” said Mr. Mahadevaiah, who came here from Yadgir about two decades ago.

Others like him have come from Raichur, Bijapur, Bidar and north Karnataka districts.

Getting desperate

It is estimated that Bangalore requires about 3,000 lorry loads of sand daily. Acknowledging that there was a severe shortage, a builder said that those who were desperate were buying sand at Rs. 85 per cubic feet where the normal cost was around Rs. 50 per cft. “Bangalore is getting a small quantity of sand from Hosur and Hindupur in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh respectively, but this is only a miniscule fraction of what is required,” he said.

Big builders, who usually stock sand, are less affected, but even their stocks would be depleting now, the builder said. Small builders were worst affected, he added. “If there is no sand, how can contractors give work to workers?”