Public Works Department should sell directly to sand lorry owners, says federation president
The Public Works Department’s (PWD) reluctance to restrict the role of loading contractors in Kancheepuram to loading operations is the prime reason for the cost of river sand hovering around Rs. 15,000 and above, sources allege.
On their part, PWD officials blame shortage of manpower for the situation.
Currently, many loading contractors, in addition to loading sand, market it from their own stock yards. Enquiries revealed that a few years after the government took over sand sales 10 years ago, PWD contractors were roped in as loading contractors to ferry sand from the quarry to the PWD stock yard and to load sand in lorries at the quarry.
Subsequently, they were allowed to set up their own stock yard after purchasing the sand at Rs. 626 per lorry load (two units), including a loading fee of Rs. 136, from the PWD.
When a group of lorry owners approached the Madras High Court in 2005 seeking directions for loading of sand at the quarry and dismantling of the stock yard set up by a loading contractor in Kancheepuram district, officials justified the contractor’s action by stating that purchase of sand was like any other purchase made by a person from the PWD.
While disposing off the case in favour of the PWD, the Court observed in administrative matters it should defer to the administrator’s judgment unless the action was clearly illegal or shockingly arbitrary.
However, in September this year, the same Court, while hearing a petition filed against the stacking of a huge quantity of sand in Kancheepuram district by a PWD loading contractor, stated ‘the ocular evidence, available on the face of record, makes it clear that something grave has been shielded by many persons’.
Meanwhile, Tamil Nadu State Sand Lorry Owner’s Federation president S. Yuvaraj said PWD has recently opened a quarry in Palar river near Arcot and had engaged the services of a contractor for loading operation.
The contractor purchases two units of sand for Rs. 626 and sells it for Rs. 4,000 at his stock yard. River sand could thus be made available at an affordable rate to the public if the PWD came forward to sell the sand directly to sand lorry owners, Mr. Yuvaraj added.
When contacted, PWD sources cited shortage of manpower and machinery for engaging loading contractors to sell sand. The contractor had the liberty to fix a price that would ensure he didn’t suffer a loss, the sources added.
Moreover, the arrangement saved the department the hassle of handling a large number of customers, a problem being faced by lower Palar basin officials at Kancheepuram in view of the court case, they added.