Sand may be a minor mineral but it has assumed importance in Mysore district. The strike resorted to by lorry owners in Mysore on October 26 ended on November 18 following an ‘uneasy settlement' between the Mysore District Administration and the Mysore Lorry Association Owners and contractor representatives, raising hopes for construction activities in the district, particularly Mysore, which had come to a standstill.
The lorry owners were joined by the Builders Association of India, Mysore Urban Development Authority (MUDA) Contractors Association, Mysore City Corporation (MCC) Contractors Association and Kooli Karmikara Sangha. The Lorry Owners Association members alleged that permits were not issued to the lorry owners to transport sand since 2008 in spite of submitting several representations to the Deputy Commissioner here and the Minister for Mines and Geology. However, the Mysore district in-charge Minister, S.A. Ramdas, had other plans to rein in the lorry owners.
On the one hand, sand supply to complete the works relating to PWD, MUDA and MCC went on unhindered in Mysore district since the last three years. The supply was made in the absence of permits. On the other hand, Revenue, Police, and Mines and Geology Departments, Tahsildars and RTOs carried out raids on private sand lorries and booked cases, but not those involving the government agencies (PWD, MUDA, MCC). This was the main grouse of the Mysore Lorry Association. The lorry owners and others involved in the transportation business had to resort to dharna to protest against the apathy of the State Government, says Kodandaram, president of the Association.
The members of the Association were critical of the role of the Mysore district in-charge Minister, S.A. Ramdas, who they accused of holding out hollow assurances to the striking lorry owners three times in the past. The Minister had stated that the new sand policy would be brought into force soon. The November 18 meeting decided that sand permits would be issued to lorry owners to transport sand from November 21 but on the same day as many as nine lorries transporting sand without permits from the PWD were booked and one person was arrested. Mr. Ramdas himself had led a surprise raid on Mysore-T.Narasipur Road.
The Association members led by Mr. Kodandaram owe allegiance to the Janata Dal (S) while another group has preferred to stay with the BJP. “We do not agree with Mr. Ramdas' point of view to transport sand on the basis of rationing,” Mr. Kodandaram had categorically stated. The JD(S) supremo, H.D. Deve Gowda, who was on a private tour of Mysore some days ago, had stopped at the toll gate and received a memorandum from the striking Lorry Association members and listened to their grievances. The Association members had also submitted a memorandum to the Chief Minister, D.V. Sadananda Gowda, who was here attending a slew of functions, including inauguration of the Daivi Vana, on November 20.
The meeting convened by Mr. Ramdas on November 18 too had witnessed a clear divide on political lines. Those supporting the JD (S) were seen walking out of the meeting hall in a huff protesting against the decision of Mr. Ramdas on sand permits and also installation of GPS equipment on lorries transporting sand. The view of the Minister was that GPS would help track the lorries transporting sand to the exact destination. However, Mr. Kodandaram contends that it would go against the Motor Vehicle rules in the country. Under the system proposed by Mr. Ramdas sand contractors would limit themselves to extraction and dumping of sand in the PWD yards and lorry owners would only supply sand.
Under the new rule which came into being on November 21, consumers would have to provide all details of their requirements to the PWD which would sanction the sand quantity after verifying the building plan. The Government has fixed the cost of sand at Rs. 4,000 per load containing 5.5 cubic feet of sand. The RTO would issue permits to the lorry owners to transport sand. On the contrary, the Association members say that selling sand in open markets is the best option which will be beneficial to all parties.
The Association members have been insisting that the Tamil Nadu model of sand supply should come into force where the government had fixed a specific sum for each load of sand and transportation was being done in a transparent manner. A large number of lorry owners, cleaners and helpers associated with the transport business were left to fend for themselves since the strike began in Mysore. The Builders Association, Mysore Urban Development Authority (MUDA) Contractors Association, Mysore City Corporation (MCC) Contractors Association, Kooli Karmikara Sangha, and Mysore Dasara Exhibition Contractors Association had extended support to the lorry owners, leaving the construction industry in disarray.
The PWD has stated that to begin with, five blocks had been identified in T.Narsipur taluk for sand extraction apart from seven stockyards. A contractor or a consumer had to buy a DD for a sum of Rs. 4,000 and submit it to the Assistant Executive Engineers in Mysore or T. Narsipur taluk to lift sand from the stockyards, Mr. Ramdas said. Separate stockyards would be set up to enable consumers purchasing sand in small quantities.
As per a survey conducted by the district administration, about 200 loads of sand were required on a given day in Mysore district, he said. But, from November 21 to 23, only 103 loads could be supplied by the PWD, which led to another round of confusion and confrontation. What is the use in setting up checkposts to be manned by officials of revenue, police and the Mines and Geology Departments when there is no sand available, Swamy, general secretary of the Association, asks.
Mr. Swamy says that sand could not be supplied at Rs. 4,000 per load since the diesel prices had gone up and so had the driver, cleaner, loaders and unloading charges. Some members of the Association demand that the lorries impounded by the department of Mines and Geology by imposing fines up to Rs. 1 lakh on each lorry, on charges of carrying sand illegally recently, should be released. Mr. Ramdas has clarified that the State Government would not want money from sand but was interested in protecting the interests of the customers. The Government would not allow labourers from outside the State in sand business and also take serious action against those employing labourers below the age of 18 years.
Mr. Ramdas had also stated that aggrieved people could call helpline number 1077 to seek redress. Consumers should not get cheated by those people who supplied sand, the Minister had said.
Sand has become the source of strife in Mysore district