Shimla: Cement, the binding material, has become a bone of contention for the ruling party with a faction opposed to chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal drawing attention to its runaway retail prices being higher than neighboring states, even though large manufacturing units were there in the hill state.
Having floated a â€˜Himachal Brashtaachar Mukti Morchaâ€™ front, senior BJP leader who has been president of the state party, Maheshwar Singh stated publically, â€œcement, a product manufactured in Himachal by mining limestone deposits is selling at higher prices here than the price it is available in Punjab.â€
â€œSomething is amiss and nobody seems to be doing anything about it,â€ he added.
Touching a raw nerve, the ruling faction lobbied with the party high command and got Maheshwarâ€™s removed from the central executive committee.
The dissident camp finding support in two ministers and four MLAâ€™s, on Sunday met party president Nitin Gadhkari at Delhi to place their viewpoint before the high command.
Not deterred by Gadkariâ€™s diktat of asking party men not to go public with their issues, Khushi Ram Balnatah, a legislator from Rohru says, â€œit is in the interest of every state resident that cement prices are lower than what they are in other states. After all, it is our resources that are being exploited to manufacture the product.â€
A cement bag in Shimla,â€ says Amarjeet Raina, a contractor, â€œis available for Rs 335 to 350 and the same bag in Punjab costs Rs 290-300. A price differential of about Rs 50 per bag is hard to explain.â€
Sources in the industry department mentioned that after cement being removed from essential commodity items, the prices were only controlled by free market practices.
However, fearing the issue could go out of hand at a time when inflation was raging, the government issued a diktat to cement companies to reduce prices.
â€œThe government is of the view that cement prices be at par if not lower than Punjab and Haryana,â€ says JS Rana, director industries. â€œA meeting with cement companies on Monday asking them to reduce prices was inconclusive and another meeting is scheduled for Friday, he added.
With their being large deposits of lime stones in the state, cement has become a major industry that has at least 5 plants operating and another four in various stages of execution.