Himachal asks cement firms to lower prices

Shimla, April 4 (IANS) Cement companies operating their plants in Himachal Pradesh have been asked to lower their retail rates, state Industries Minister Mukesh Agnihotri said Thursday.

“The cement companies will have to reduce the prices of a cement bag sold in the hill state,” Agnihotri said in the assembly, in his reply to a debate on a private member’s resolution moved by Bharatiya Janata Party’s Rajiv Bindal on tapping limestone deposits.

“We are suffering in terms of health hazards and depletion of natural resources due to the cement industry, but why the people should get a cement bag at a price up to Rs.340 when the people of neighbouring states like Punjab are getting a bag for Rs.275?” said the minister.

“If the cement companies think that they are running a parallel government, they are grossly mistaken,” he asserted.

“Recently, we entered into an agreement with a cement company which agreed to supply the cement to the government at the rate of Rs.155 per bag. This way we will save Rs.18 to Rs.24 crore in a year at this rate contract,” he said.

Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh also assured the assembly last month that the government would try to persuade the cement companies to reduce their prices.

The state has four cement mega-plants — Barmana (ACC), Darlaghat (Ambuja), Rajban (CCI) and Bagha (Aypee Himachal Cement Ltd). Their aggregate production capacity is 11 million tonnes a year.

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