|Cement prices highest in NE despite subsidies|
R Dutta Choudhury
GUWAHATI, March 20 – Though the cement industries are getting hundreds of crores of rupees as different incentives under the Special Industrial Promotional Policy, the price of the item in the North East region is the highest in the country, which not only affected common people but also increased the expenditures of implementation of various development projects.
Official sources told The Assam Tribune that over the years, the new industries in Assam including the cement industries are getting substantial amounts of incentives but that has not been reflected on the prices.
Sources revealed that according to records available, during the period from April , 2000 to January 31 this year, different industries got transport subsidy of Rs 1997.06 crore and coal and coke industry is the biggest beneficiary with Rs 743 crore followed by cement industries which got Rs 482.38 crore as transport subsidy. The iron and steel companies came third in the list with Rs 335 crore. In addition to transport subsidy the major industries are also getting different other incentives including capital investment subsidy, income tax benefits, interest subsidy etc and even after those incentives, the prices are the highest in the North East region.
Sources admitted that the raw materials available for cement industry are cheapest in this region and the cost of production per bag of cement should not be more than Rs 120, while, the average price is at least Rs 360 per bag after the recent price hike. No where in India the price of cement is more than Rs 300 per bag but only in this region, the average price is Rs 360, sources admitted.
In addition to the other benefits, the coal industries are also getting coal at subsidized rate from the Coal India Limited and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is probing into one case where the Meghalaya Cement Limited sold off subsidized coal in the open market instead of using the same in the cement factory in Meghalaya.
The price of cement has become a cause of concern for the State Governments of the NE region. Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi, in his Budget speech said, “ the Government has been providing a series of incentives to the industries under the Industrial and Investment policy. It has urged upon the industries, particularly the cement and steel manufacturing units to pass on the benefits of tax exemptions to the consumers of the state in the form of price reduction. Or else, the Government may be compelled to review its industrial policy and may enact appropriate provision for the benefit of the consumers of the state.”
Sources said that during a recent meeting convened by the Centre on the transport subsidy scheme, the Meghalaya Chief Minister Mukul Sangma had also raised the issue and suggested that the State Governments should be given some tools to control the prices of cement.