Check construction material prices

Had the Government acted in time and reined in unscrupulous elements and the mafia from wantonly looting the minor mineral wealth of the rivers in Jammu and Kashmir, perhaps by the time when it was realised that enough damage had been caused to the precious mineral wealth of these rivers and thinking that nothing less than imposing total ban on extraction would resolve the issue, last year, therefore, such blanket ban on mining activities was imposed. Like this, only a mere skeleton extraction of such minor minerals has resulted in a mismatch between demand and supply affecting construction works both at Government as well as at private levels. On the other hand, due to fast urbanisation in Jammu and Kashmir and coming up of new colonies and houses as also spurt in raising developmental infrastructure by the Government, a steady rise in demand of construction material not being met with the availability has resulted in the operation of simple economic rule of rise in the prices. It is to be believed that a tipper load of sand which until 2019 was being sold at between Rs.5000 to Rs.6000 is currently available at more than double the price. Similar is the position of prices of stones and gravel. Any cosmetic approach or arbitrarily fixing the rates would be only a short term measure besides not pushing supply up instead whatever is available too would get ”vanished” or still would be sold clandestinely at exorbitant prices. This scenario has hit even several contractors also, leading in most of the cases to stoppage of work temporarily and thus suffering monetary losses by those engaged in the construction activities. The labour class, in most of the cases, comprising migratory persons from other States too has to face hardships as their labour days are lost and consequently the wages. These labourers numbering as per rough estimates at nearly 6 lakh usually working and residing too at the construction sites are the worst sufferers in addition to the skilled labour like masons etc besides as many as 30000 contractors across the UT of Jammu and Kashmir. The tipper and truck owners wholly dependent on transporting the material to the construction sites from the suppliers too are suffering as their daily earnings have taken a nose dive. The astonishing part of the problem is that despite the Government being in full knowledge of the shortage of the building material appears in no way concerned about resolving the issue by formulating a suitable and workable policy and enforcing that strictly whereby any illegal mineral extraction could be dealt with sternly. Stopping, however, almost entire extraction activities was no solution to the problem. Illegal mining which has turned out to be a lucrative business unfortunately continues unabated even now in the UT as just on March 3, in Kathua, police seized three vehicles for the illegal mining carrying sand and Bajri and also two JCB heavy vehicles engaged in such unauthorised mining. Geology and Mining Department is expected to proceed further in the case and while the action of the Samba Police in containing such mining activities is appreciated, it is expected that an effective intelligence mechanism, around such lucrative points of extraction should be made always available to inform the police to take on the spot action against such mineral thieves. Having said so, there must be found out a way to resolve the issue as the building material cannot be imported from other States and whatever is made available is only from the existing sources which undoubtedly needed to be used judiciously only after the permits and lease authorisations were granted under rules to registered miners. That should be done at an early date to ease the position of availability of the building material which is in great demand.