Just ahead of the parliamentary elections, besides starting the atta-dal scheme to woo voters, the government has also made available sand at controlled rates at the district level, as the non-availability of it and high cost of this construction material have been a problem for many people.
Sand is available at Rs 2,500- Rs 2,600 per 100 square feet at controlled rates at the stock yards of grain markets at Kotkapura, Jaitu, Faridkot and Sadak. But many are terming it to be eyewash just before the parliamentary elections.
"The non-availability and higher rates of sand have also affected labourers, masons and other workers engaged in the construction and related work as most of them could not find work due to the shortage of construction material. After harassing them for two years, now the government has made sand available at controlled rates to please voters," alleged Jimmy Brar, a Muktsar resident.
However, according to people, the present rates are higher as compared to three years back. "In 2011, a full trolley of sand was available at Rs 1,500, which at least costs about Rs 4,000 at controlled rates. In just less than three years, the prices of the sand have gone up three-fold while the income of the common man has not increased much," said Mohar Singh, a resident of Sirsari village.
A trolley load (about 140 square feet) of sand at Kotkapura, under controlled rates, comes at about `4,000.
"Sand is sold at Rs 2,550 per square feet or at Rs 67 per quintal, but Rs 200 is charged for the labour besides the transportation charges, which depend upon the place to which sand is to be transported," said a man at the cotton yard, where sand has been made available under controlled rates at Kotkapura.
People also alleged that the state government has been indifferent during the past years though the cases regarding the auction of sand quarries were in the courts. "Though there has been much hue and cry earlier also, the government has taken a step only before the parliamentary elections," they allege.
"The business of sand, which was never considered an important material in construction, was allegedly monopolised by the some politicians for personal gains, which led to exploitation of people. During the past two years, one had to spend about Rs 1 lakh more on sand alone for the construction of a house that would cost around Rs 20 lakh," said Jimmy Brar.
"It may again lead to overcharging after the elections as there is one contractor at the district level for transporting sand that would be made available at controlled rates. Again, it may lead to exploitative nexus between the politicians and transporters at local level," said Arvinder Singh, president of district youth wing of People's Party of Punjab.
The sand was reportedly made available in this district only about one to two weeks back. "The sand is available at controlled rates throughout the district and anybody can buy it. There is no problem with it," said Mohammad Tayyab, deputy commissioner, Faridkot.