The severe shortage of labour coupled with a two-day power holiday is crippling the limestone (napa stone) industry in Andhra Pradesh’s Ranga Reddy district.
Tandur stones are named after the mandal of the same name, about 125 km from Hyderabad, in which they are quarried. Tandur blue and white limestone slabs are the preferred flooring material for the middle-class, which finds granite and marble expensive.
Tandur is the main producer and distributor of the blue limestone used for flooring and wall cladding and sometimes even for slabs.
Limestone is available mostly in the mandals of Tandur and Marpally. In Tandur, quarries of limestone are extensively developed and the lime is sold locally.
However, the industry has suffered in the last few months due to the agitations for and against a separate Telangana. Orders were delayed, as transport services were hit due to the agitations.
According to industry circles, there are about 350 units in the district that are engaged in the stone business. Tandur Blue, which is actually grey in colour, is the mainstay of the business.
The workers make Rs 600-1,200 a week depending on the work. The shortage of labour is attributed to the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme. “People are getting work in their villages and are not coming to work in the slab industry,” says C Vijaya Rama Rao, member of the Tandur Stone Merchants Association.
This apart, the two-day power cut — on Mondays and Thursday — is making things difficult for the stone industry.
“The units do not pay any wages during the power holiday,” says Rao, adding that this has resulted in the earnings of workers fall almost by 50 per cent.
The power shortage is resulting in a fall in productivity, widening the demand-supply gap. As a result, the prices of the slabs have increased by Rs 0.50-1 per sq ft. The blue stone sells for about Rs 6-9 per sq ft, while the white stone sells for about Rs 5-6 per sq ft.