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Big steel, cement firms operating as a cartel; need to place regulator: Gadkari

Big players in the steel and cement industry are indulging in cartelisation to jack-up prices, Union Road Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari has said, pitching to place a regulator for the sectors.

It will be difficult to achieve Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s dream of making India a USD 5 trillion economy if the steel and cement prices keep going up, Gadkari said, pointing out the target of investing Rs 111 lakh crore on infrastructure projects in the next five years to aid the economy.

It can be noted that allegations of such cartelisation have been made in the past as well, especially by the real estate industry, which is impacted through higher input prices because of it.

“Regarding steel and cement, this is really a problem for all of us Actually, I feel this is a cartel by some big people are doing in cement and steel,” Gadkari said while speaking at a virtual event organised by the Builders Association of India on Saturday.

The minister said he has discussed the issue with the Prime Minister and had a lengthy discussion on it with the Principal Secretary in the PMO as well.

Stating that all the players in the steel industry have their own iron ore mines, and do not have to face any hikes in labour or power rates, he wondered how the steel industry has been hiking prices.

He said the cement industry is exploiting the situation by hiking up the prices, and underlined that the stance of both the industries is not in the national interest, given the infrastructure spends lined up.

“We are in the process of finding out the solution for that. Your (BAI’s) one of the recommendations is for a regulator for steel and cement, which is also a good suggestion. I will look into it,” Gadkari said.

The minister, however, conceded that having a regulator is not in his hands and promised to speak with the Finance Ministry and the Prime Minister to get the proposal moving.

” It is also one of the important issues where I am also very much worried about,” he reiterated.

As per an official statement, BAI also requested for a mechanism for the early release of bills against the government contracts, streamlining in GST implementation, and royalty payment to be taken care by the state governments during the meeting with the minister.

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