Cong pegs poll pitch on sand, gravel shortage

Sky rocketing cost of construction material tops party agenda in Moga bypoll campaign.

For the first time in the history of electoral politics in Punjab, an issue hitherto unheard of in elections — availability of reta (sand) for construction — has made it to the top of the agenda of political parties clashing for the Moga seat.

Considered to be the cheapest elements that went into construction, the statewide acute shortage has now made sand and gravel as the most sought after commodity. The rate which Moga residents quote for a single dumper of sand varies from Rs 12,000 to Rs 40,000 while a tipper load of bajri costs Rs 5,500 upwards. A tipper load of bajri was earlier available for Rs 500 to Rs 800.

"It is the biggest issue right now. And it is not about big builders alone. It is about the common man who receives a shock when he hears that a truck load of sand, which used to cost Rs 2,500 some time back, is now coming for Rs 40,000," says former chief minister and state Congress chief Captain Amarinder Singh. "We had heard of liquor parchis but this is the first time in this election that the ruling party is giving out reta parchis to voters to go and get free reta from shops," he adds.

The cost of construction has more than doubled in the past six months with several projects coming to a standstill. There are allegations that the shortage is "artificial" and with the demand increasing and rates sky- rocketing the illegal miners are making a killing. It is also alleged that several politicians are involved in illegal mining in the state with some directly carrying out mining operations and others charging "goonda fee" or "movement tax" from those mining illicitly.

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