River mine traders fleecing customers in Udayapur

Gaighat, August 1

Udayapur district dwellers have been compelled to purchase illegally extracted construction materials, including gravel, sand and boulders, at exorbitant prices for want of option.

District Coordination Committee, Udayapur, imposed a ban on the extraction and sale of river products from Triyuga River for three months with effect from June 15 to curb illegal trade in construction items.

However, groups started extracting the banned items indiscriminately at night and selling them to customers at a high rate. Customers have no option but to purchase even if it means paying double the amount due to lack of these items in the market.

Tractor entrepreneurs have been extracting the items openly and selling them in collusion with security personnel and government employees.

“We are not allowed to extract and transport such items during day. Thus, we conduct business by influencing both the security agency and state officials. We have to collect bribe money from customers,” said a tractor entrepreneur on condition of anonymity.

A tractor load of sand costs Rs 1,400 to 1,600, gravel Rs 2,000 to Rs 3,000, while boulder costs Rs 4,000 to 5,500 after the ban. Before the ban, the price of these items was less than half.

Rastriya Janata Party-Nepal Udayapur Coordinator Khushi Lal Thakur said traders were fleecing the public. “Though customers have been cheated, the authority has kept mum so far,” said Thakur.

Mahesh Roka, a Gaighat dweller, said the administration bans the extraction and trade of construction materials for three months every year. Hence, customers have to bear the brunt of the black-market. Though illegal trading has soared, no authority takes action against the guilty. “Therefore, the ban seems to have been imposed to encourage black-marketers,” said Roka.

However, District Coordination Committee Udayapur Local Development Officer Ganesh Dahal argued that he was unaware of the illegal extraction and trading of construction items. “Nobody has so far lodged a complaint at our office. If it takes place at night, I am ignorant about it as there is no possibility of deploying staff then,” said LDO Dahal.

Meanwhile, Triyuga Municipality Mayor Bal Dev Chaudhary admitted that his office had received complaints about the smuggling of construction materials in collusion with officials.

“We have received complaints. So, we have informed the local administration for necessary action,” said Mayor Chaudhary.

He pledged to monitor such activities and vowed to take action against such racketeers.