PESHAWAR: Robust structures made of marble tend to grasp attention instantaneously. However, the shiny appearance of the stone tends to deflect attention from the grueling realities of the marble industry.
Over the years, the industry has lost its intrigue and coupled with governmentâs apathy the marble industry, it seems, is nearing its end.
Those employed in the industry claim a myriad of problems is hampering the progress of the industry including lack of electricity, damaged machinery, underpaid labour, lack of technology and no proper drainage system in factories.
Sun News International News visited the Marble Industrial Estate â which was established more than two decades ago on Warsak Road â to uncover the problems haunting the industry.
A meagre population of less than 300 labourers are living and working at the estate, which not only produces marble for Peshawar, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa but also other parts of Pakistan.
Marble Industrial Estate Peshawar Vice President Fateh Khan Kundi explained that the number of factories in the area is increasing day-by-day but there is just one electricity feeder. Continuous low voltage and tripping problems tend to damage machinery and delay production process.
He further said the Peshawar Electric Supply Company should provide extra feeders to the industrial estate, adding that factories are billed about Rs0.3 to Rs0.4 million every month.
On the other hand, Marble Industrial Estate General Secretary Himmat Shah shared about the menace of working with outdated technology. âSince we are using worn out machinery, we canât produce marble to international standards. As a result of low quality, we canât export marble to other countries.â
Shah demanded the government provide the estate with loans to purchase modern machinery on lease system so that the industry could be upgraded.
He explained that the transportation of marble is another challenge as raw stone is procured from different sites in Mohmand Agency, Khyber Agency, and Buner district. âWhile transporting raw stone, no route is given to us by traffic police and other security agencies. This creates further problems for industrialists,â he added.
While cutting stones, labourers use water which after turning dry turns into white powder, said the owner of a marble factory, Imran Patwar. The powder can be used in vessels factories, construction sector and also in different medicines. However, having no proper system renders a big amount of this powder useless, added Patwar.
A life of hard labour
The workers employed in the marble industry work almost 10 hours a day on bare minimum wages yet their hard work goes unnoticed.
Bakhtiar Khan, who has been working as a labourer since the last 22 years in the industrial estate, remarked that he has injured himself countless times however there is no treatment facility nearby.
âThe government or factory owners provide us no relief. We have no health insurance. During work, I have injured myself several times but no compensation has been given to me.â
Aside from low wages, fixed labourers, who earn Rs12,000 a month, and daily workers, who make Rs200 for cutting 100 feet of marble, continue to work without any security precautions. Most labourers do not have proper gloves to wear while cutting marble.
Moreover, there are no educational institutes, residential colonies or hospitals for the labourers or their families.
Another labourer, Akhter Khan, said, âOur children need schools, we need homes and hospital facilities too. There are no government educational institutes or hospitals in our factories zone.â
While Minerals Development Department KP is running several projects in the province, no project has been undertaken to provide relief to the labourers at Peshawarâs Marble Industrial Estate, according to official records.