NEW DELHI: The government on Wednesday summoned the country’s top cement companies amid concerns of possible collusion by the industry to jack up prices of the key construction material. Highways minister Nitin Gadkari warned the industry executives of initiating strict action against them, if they are found involved in any unfair practice.
The minister has already warned the cement makers that the government will drag them to Competition Commission of India (CCI) if they were indulging in unethical trade practice. Cement prices have been rising for the past few months and raising suspicion in the government that industry players may be acting in tandem. The road sector is one of the biggest cement consumers in the country and has seen higher uptake due to an acceleration in the pace of construction as also due to a focus on building concrete roads, which are seen to last longer despite the higher construction cost.
Sources told TOI that the top brass of Ultratech, Lafarge, India Cement, ACC, Dalmia and Sanghi Industries met Gadkari on Wednesday evening. A source said the minister warned the industry executives not to take advantage of the government policy to increase the use of cement. During the meeting, Gadkari said, he is keeping tabs of prices.
The industry representatives said they were ready to show their books and offered to submit details to the ministry.
Sources said Gadkari asked the industry to work out a mechanism to ensure that there is not much difference between the cost of the inputs and the price at which the construction material is sold in the market. He also pointed out how despite no increase in the cost of raw material, the cement prices have increased.
Gadkari has put in place a web-based market place that brings together the construction material providers including cement and the prospective buyers on a common platform. The registered cement companies update their offered stocks and the prices on the portal. They in turn get instant intimation about the orders placed and are able to approve the delivery schedules as requested by the cement buyers.
The prices quoted exclude taxes and the transport charges. The buyers need to pick up the cement bags from the factory gate.