The banks of the Munneru on the Andhra Pradesh-Telangana boundary bustle with activity almost throughout the year as several poor families that live nearby take out sand from the river and sell it for a living. Sand is the only means of livelihood for them. They sell it at Nandigama, Penuganchiprolu and Jaggaiahpet in NTR district and places as far as Suryapet, Khammam, Warangal and Hyderabad.
Except during rain, it is a thriving business in which the young and old alike are fully engaged. They keep digging out sand and load it onto nearly 300 bullock carts every day. The mineral is transported to various places in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana where it is sold at ₹500 to ₹1,000 a load (one bullock cart) depending on the distance and demand.
Children studying from seventh to tenth classes in nearby schools help their elders by loading sand from the river. Women too are part of the workforce. Some bullock cart owners sell the sand to lorry owners, who, in turn, sell at handsome prices in Khammam, Suryapet and Hyderabad.
Short break: A cattle rearer with a bullock.
Pulling away: Bullock carts are rented out at around ₹500 a day.
Sand run: Sand loads from the Munneru river at Penuganchipolu in NTR district of Andhra Pradesh are transported using bullock carts to distant places.
Bending under load: Cattle are forced to carry up to 25 bags of graded sand on every trip.
Loading point: Bullock carts line up as they approach the shore.
Long haul: A trudge through water.
High road: Sand-laden carts finally take the Chennai-Kolkata highway.
Mechanised work: An excavator fills tractors with sand at a site permitted by the government.