The Andhra Pradesh government on Monday said it was making all efforts to ease the sand shortage situation in the state at the earliest, even as more Opposition voices joined the chorus against the Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy-led regime.
Protests have intensified in the state in the aftermath of about half a dozen people, including daily-wage labourers in the construction sector, allegedly committing suicide in Guntur and other places over lost livelihoods.
Facing the first major test of his government's performance since he took charge as CM in June this year, Reddy reviewed the sand availability situation and maintained that the present shortage was temporary. This would be addressed soon after floods in major rivers recede, he said.
On Monday the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and actor-politician Pawan Kalyan’s Jana Sena Party took out separate rallies in a fresh round of political protests over the issue, squarely blaming the state government for the situation that had impacted construction activity and led to loss of jobs. The leaders of both parties warned they would intensify their protests if the government failed to ease the situation in coming weeks.
Political protests against the government started two weeks ago, with the main Opposition, Telugu Desam Party (TDP), launching state-wide demonstrations against the government’s ‘indifference’ to alleged suicides.
Left parties and construction and building workers’ unions also held protests last month, highlighting the loss of livelihoods and suffering of people dependent on construction jobs in the state. The government has been criticised for failing to predict the situation its decision to stop sand mining would lead to.
During a review meeting in Amaravati on Monday, CM Reddy said the floods in the Krishna and Godavari rivers had not subsided for 90 days and only 61 of the 265 sand reaches had been operational. "It has become difficult for trucks and tractors to transport sand in flooded areas. An additional transportation charge, fixed at Rs 4.90 per km on average, will also be levied and the supply of sand will be increased after the floods," he said.
Reddy’s YSR Congress party government had announced an alternative sand policy in September to replace the 'free sand' policy of the earlier regime. This was done with the stated objective of regulating the sale of sand through a government nodal agency at Rs 375 per tonne. But the state government could not put its new plan to work, as the sand reaches became inaccessible due to rains and floods at many places.
According to government estimates, the construction sector in Andhra Pradesh needs 20 million tonnes of sand every year.