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Sand-lift ban hits daily wage earners

“In the face of Durga Puja, thousands of households that depend on the construction and building materials sector in the district have been facing great hardship in the absence of work. If the condition remains unchanged in the next few days, such families will face starvation,”

Radhamadab Saha | Raigunj |

As the construction sector comes to a grinding halt in North Dinajpur district due to a ban on sand mining in the river, thousands of families who earn their livelihood through the sector have been hit the most.

The state government issued an order over a month ago, banning the lifting of sand from the Mahananda river at Sonapur and Chopra in the district. Those in the sand and construction business have said that the government is yet to resume sand mining in the river.

“In the face of Durga Puja, thousands of households that depend on the construction and building materials sector in the district have been facing great hardship in the absence of work. If the condition remains unchanged in the next few days, such families will face starvation,” a source said.

More than 1000 lorries of sand used to be lifted from the banks of the Mahananda river in Chopra and Sonapur and supplied to different construction sites every day earlier. The government would earn a huge amount of revenue
from the sand supply business. “Around 5000 workers engaged in the loading and unloading of the sand in the lorries have been rendered in the face of Durga Puja,” the source said.

On the other hand, some traders have started selling sub-standard local sand at rates three times more than usual, it is alleged. “This has been adversely affecting the quality of construction work in both the government and public
sectors,” a source said.

According to Anup Paul, Kamal Mitra and Barun Ghosh, sand traders in Raiganj, their business came to a halt around 45 days ago.  “Several people who
pull sand-laden carts to construction sites are starving too. We demand that the state government offer some special financial assistance to us and other families that depend on the construction work,” they said in unison.

A mason in Raignaj, Ramesh Chauhan, said that most masons and labourers have gone jobless after most of the construction work in the district has stopped in lack of sand supply from Chopra.

“If the sand supply does not resume immediately from Chopra, we will have to starve,” he said. When contacted, officials at the district administration did not want to make any comment on the issue.