As the availability of sand continues to remain insufficient in Punjab, the basic construction material from Rajasthan is in demand in the state.
The sand from Rajasthan has a distinct red color and traders and transporters said that for the first time, sand from the neighboring state is being sold in Punjab.
Official sources said the Punjab government is facing a huge fiscal loss due to the ongoing ban on sand mining and construction activities in the state have almost come to a standstill.
Industry sources say that people are forced to buy red sand to meet their requirements.
A cross-section of people associated with transportation, construction and sale of sand said that due to the uncertainty over the uninterrupted availability of natural resources, the demand for Rajasthan sand has increased during harvesting. They spoke on condition of anonymity.
River sand mining remained prohibited during the rainy season from July 1 to September 30.
On August 29, the Punjab and Haryana HC stayed sand mining in the Ravi riverbed in Pathankot and Gurdaspur following the Indian Army’s statement about the “linkage between the sand mafia and ‘drug smugglers'”.
“Kolayat in Bikaner is the main source of red sand and for the last few weeks its demand is increasing day by day. Prices vary on a daily basis. When lal reta started appearing in Punjab markets in August, it was sold at ₹110 per quintal at wholesale rates and this week it was dropped to ₹90-92 per quintal for a truck,” said a goods transporter from Bathinda.
An entrepreneur with a business interest in natural resources from Fazilka district said that people have no option but to meet their construction requirements by substituting the popular sand from the Pathankot mines.
“The quality of the red sand is at par with that of Punjab or Haryana. Although mining operations have been officially halted in Punjab and the illegally mined sand is sold at a much higher rate than ₹150 per quintal at retail,” he added.
A retailer in Bathinda has firmed up the red sand rate ₹120 per quintal on Sunday with the addition of negotiated prices.
“Bathinda and adjoining districts are also getting supplies of dark colored sand from Karnal at almost the same rate at par with Bikaner sand,” he said.
According to a construction contractor in Ferozepur, the shortage of sand and bajri (gravel) has affected construction in the public and private sectors. Transporters have started getting supplies from Rajasthan and Haryana at a premium, he added.
“In June, the half-inch gravel rates, another basic construction item, were ₹55-60 per quintal and rose to ₹106 per quintal. As mining and stone crushing activities have come up in Punjab, the rates have gone up drastically due to increase in transport costs,” said the contractor.