Kochi Metro works hit as unidentified men reportedly stopping trucks bringing raw materials

Kochi: A severe shortage of broken rocks and manufactured sand has nearly brought construction work on Kochi metro rail project to a halt.

“Unidentified people” have been reportedly stopping trucks bringing raw materials for the Metro Rail works soon after quarry owners and crusher operators called for an indefinite strike on Monday.

“We used to work on 15 piles a day; now it has come down to one,” said a senior official of the Kochi Metro Rail Limited on Wednesday. He said one of the trucks that was bringing m-sand for the metro works was forced to empty the load at Pulinchuvadu, near Aluva, on Tuesday. Some people were trying to scare drivers off, he said.

But the groups that are spearheading the strike have denied adopting strong-arm tactics.

Zulfkier Ali, the secretary of All Kerala Quarry and Crusher Operators’ Association, which is among the three organisations that has given the call for an indefinite strike, denied blocking transport of raw materials.

Former Aluva MLA M.A. Yusuf, the district president of the association, too denied any such tactics on the part of the striking quarry and crusher owners. He said the entire lot of quarry owners and crusher operators in the State would join the strike on Thursday if the talks with Industries Minister P.K. Kunhalikutty failed.

Mr. Yusuf said quarry business in the State faced serious troubles following the move to implement the Kasturirangan report in the Western Ghats. However, the more immediate cause for the ire of the quarry operators is the hike in sales tax on granite, metal and m-sand.

Mr. Ali claimed that the State Budget had recommended a hike of 14.5 per cent tax on quarry products, which was about 300 per cent rise from the present level.

A spokesman for Kerala Builders’ Association said the recommended hike in tax on quarry products would ultimate hit home buyers. He said the hike was recommended at a time when the construction industry was still reeling under a general economic recession.