Construction activities in Sindh are nearing a complete halt as dumper and truck owners have been staging a strike for almost a week. The transporters are protesting against the exorbitant increase in mining royalty and soaring toll tax.

In a statement on Monday, officials of the Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) lamented that the government of Sindh hiked the mining royalty from Rs8 to Rs40 per ton in addition to a heavy toll tax of Rs3,200 for a two-way trip.

They pointed out that the toll doubled to Rs6,400 if a dumper truck made two trips in 24 hours.

“Dumper truck owners were already facing a severe crisis due to the uptrend in diesel and tyre prices and the recent increase in levies has made it impossible for them to continue to work,” remarked KCCI President Shariq Vohra.

He stressed that continuation of the strike would dent the construction sector because it relied on dumper trucks for transporting the basic raw material. “The government intends to accelerate the pace of economic development but the strike has brought the sector to a standstill,” he pointed out.

Vohra remarked that the protest was neither favouring the transporters nor the industry, hence, the protesters should highlight their demands and call off the strike as soon as the government agreed to push the royalty to the previous level.

Members of the Dumper Truck Owners Association highlighted that they had been catering to the demand of Karachi and the rest of Sindh by lifting garbage and supplying construction material besides paying a huge amount of taxes to the national exchequer.

“However, the Mines and Mineral Development Department, Sindh recently notified a steep hike in royalty and tasked the contractors to collect the levy, which is unacceptable,” they said.

Speaking to The Express Tribune, Insaf Truck Union President Khair Zaman said that although the government had increased the toll tax, the pressing issue for the time being was the spike in mineral royalty from just Rs700 per dumper to a substantial Rs2,700. “We do not mind a rational increase in taxes, however, this is a steep hike, which we cannot explain to the companies that have hired us at fixed rates,” he said.

He stated that the client companies acknowledged that a surge in fuel prices could increase the cost of dumper truck operators but the rise in royalty tax was something that the transporters were unable to explain to their customers.

Union of Small and Medium Enterprises (Unisame) President Zulfikar Thaver underlined that the ongoing strike had devastated the construction industry because the movement of raw material had stopped.

“The protest is a setback to the government’s policy of promoting the construction industry,” he regretted.

He was of the view that there was no valid reason behind the protest and the transporters just wanted to pressurise the government to reduce the cost of doing business.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 14th, 2021.

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