Workers’ Roar over artificial shortage of sand created by Sand Mafia
U. Venkateshwar Rao
A large number of construction workers staged a demonstration and also a dharna in front of RDO office in Adoni town, Kurnool district, Andhra Pradesh. It was held on 14-10-2020 demanding an end to the artificial shortage of sand, control of high prices and for providing work to the construction workers. BOC Workers came into streets in huge number. They raised slogans with anger against Contractors who are selling sand illegally on high prices. They further demanded action against middlemen. Ferociously, they questioned why the govt. is not taking action against illegal sand grabbers. They criticized that the middlemen were robbing, making the daily workers jobless. The town of Adoni seemed like a sea of struggling workers. It was surprised to see so many workers moving on roads fully with fighting spirit workers Adoni people were amazed by the labour force that lined the long bars. More than 3,000 workers from the town of Adoni and surrounding villages virtually occupied the town of Adoni. All the main streets were jammed with workers. A large number of workers from about 45 wards in Adoni town and about 35 villages in surrounding five Mandals, mainly Adoni rural mandal, participated. Other than Adoni, workers came from Kaitaram, Emmiganur, Aspari and Aluru mandals. After the demonstration, they stormed the Revenue Divisional Officer’s (RDO) office and demanded that their problems be resolved immediately.
Let’s find out the reasons for the workers’ response at this level.
There are many small ditches and bends in the vicinity of Adoni. The Jagan government had earlier announced that the sand could be taken for free. But locally some landlords and middlemen are making money by selling sand making money in an illegal way. Actually cost of one tractor load sand was Rs 2,000 earlier. But now it is being sold for over Rs 5,000. In addition, sand from the Thungabhadra river, (Its distance from Adoni is nearly 50 KMs) is being diverted to other areas, creating an artificial shortage. Further, those illegal sand grabbers are selling at high prices. The 18-tonne sand lorry is selling for Rs 35,000 instead of earlier cost of only Rs 13,000. This is nothing but robbery. This public exploitation has increased. Unable to afford the rate at this level, the building owners, mainly belong to middle class, stopped their construction works. This has completely damaged the work or employment of thousands of BOC workers.
K.Venkappa, IFTU district general secretary and Com. Mallikarjun AIKMS district general secretary initiated this drive. Further, B. Eaaranna, K. Ramudu, G. Eaaranna, V. Ramudu etc. local leaders also participated. All of them formed a team and talked to the workers individually and in groups. The fact that sand shortage was created artificially was widely publicized among BOC workers. This was followed by a series of meetings, which were conducted by above-said team in systematical and constructive manner. They created awareness in even labour mistris through spade work. All of them were fully involved in it and formulated the programme through involving them.
On October 8th, workers held a dharna in front of the local MLA Y. Sai Prasad Reddy’s house with 300 workers. MLA also promised to take the issue seriously and resolve it. He met with the mistris two or three times after that but the problem was not resolved. So it was decided to intensify the movement. Five days back a special meeting was held with forty mistris and a agitation programme was made. It was decided at the meeting that all the workers should stop work on October 12, 13 and 14 and hold a large Rally in Adoni town on the 14th October. It evoked very good response and reaction from BOC workers. On the 12th and 13th thousands of workers participated in this strike. Finally over 3,000 workers staged a big massive rally in Adoni on October 14. Workers warned that the movement would be further intensified if their problems were not resolved.
People are discussing that it is very rare for a rally to take place in the city of Adoni at this level. Thousands of people lined up on both sides of the road to watch the Rally. The people understood the seriousness of the problem and expressed support for the demonstrators. It has become a hot topic of discussion in the town. The RDO himself came out from his office and assured openly in front of demonstrations to bring it notice of district collector, and further promised to resolve it immediately.
The demonstration was organized by IFTU Affiliated A.P. Progressive Building and Other Construction Workers Union. Its State Vice President B. Yesu participated in the programme as Chief Guest.
This programme was led by A.P. Progressive Building and Other Construction Workers Union AP state committee member K. Venkappa, Adoni town president B. Eaaranna, town secretary K. Ramudu, Committee members G. Eaaranna, V. Ramudu, Mallayya, Valamanna, Centering Malli etc. They were abl y supported in these efforts by the district general secretary of AIKMS Mallikarjun.
PDSU state Joint Secretary K. Bhaskar, district leaders, B. Mahendra, Tirumalesh took part in the rally in support of workers. CITU leaders also came in the last minute and declared their solidarity through participation in said demonstration.
Let’s hope this movement gives inspiration for future struggles!