KASARGOD: Construction works worth crores are left hanging after quarries and crushers were shut down, some in protest, following the order from the National Green Tribunal (NGT) mandating permit from the Union Ministry of Environment and Forest and the Pollution Control Board.
More than 25,000 workers are employed in 500 laterite stone quarries in the district. Raghavan Velutholy, Kasargod District Laterite Quarry Owners’ Association, said that in the past eight days since mining had been stopped, the sector lost nearly `50 lakh in revenue in the district. “But the sad part is that the workers are jobless for these many days, and many are staring at starvation,” he said. However, the All Kerala Crusher Owners Association alleged that quarries and crushers from Karnataka were exporting raw materials to Kasargod to capitalise on the ‘artificial drought’ of building materials. “More than 150 trucks enter Kasargod, mostly in collusion with officials, without paying tax,” said Haneef Nelikunnu. “A laterite brick that was sold for `20 is now being sold for `40,” he said. The district is also facing a shortage of sand following the Supreme Court’s verdict on sand mining from areas near the river. The Construction Workers’ Protest Committee, an umbrella body of six trade unions which claims to have more than 1.5 lakh workers in their rolls, said that they would block the Collectorate here demanding protection of jobs and welfare fund, on August 7.
“Job security in the construction sector is disappearing. The main reason for this is the halt in mining activities,” said V V Balakrishnan, chairman of the protest committee. “More than 1.5 lakh workers and their families are being pushed towards financial crisis.”The association said that it would march to the Collectorate on August 6, and hold a sit-in protest to press their demand. There are 80 quarries in the district.
Key demands raised by quarry owners
■ Government should intervene and make the licence process easier
■ Allow mining of sand from dams
■ Arrest the price rise of construction materials
■ Aadhar, bank account should not be mandatory to avail the benefits of welfare fund
■ Roll back the decision to cut pension to `500 and increase it to `2,000
■ Approve the Welfare Board decision to increase ex-gratia to `25,000.
■ Open a construction academy
■ Return the `135 crore transferred to the Treasury without the Board’s nod