Kolkata : Hit badly by the cartelisation and unnatural price hike by cement and steel manufacturers, the stakeholders in construction, building industry represented by Builders Association of India (BAI) staged nation-wide dharna and one day strike on Friday, February 12, 2021 to attract the attention of the government authorities towards the menace. The BAI is raising the demand for immediate appointment of a regulatory authority in the cement and steel industry to curb the ill and unethical practices which ultimately hamper the common man.
As decided during the meetings of the office bearers of the BAI on January 13, 2021 and February 4, 2021, the call for the dharna and one day strike was given to all its stakeholders across the country. The BAI had informed its office bearers, managing committee and general council members of all centres to organise the protest dharna and strike on Friday February 12, 2021. Accordingly the dharna and strike with the stop work at sites was observed from 10 am to 1pm with prior intimation to the state authorities of the respective governments.
All the stakeholders from construction, real estate sectors participated in the strike and dharna amid huge response across the country. CREDAI and similar local organisations representing real estate and construction sectors have also been appealed to jointly participate in the protest.
“Civil Construction Industry which is mother industry of all other industries is being killed due to the Artificial Price Hike of Cement and Steel”, “Full Stop to all Civil Construction Activities across India to protest against Artificially Hiked Cement and Still Prices”, “BAI demands Cement and Steel Regulatory Authority to curb Artificially Hiked Cement and Steel Prices”, “Construction of Public Utility Infrastructure Projects in Jeopardy because of Artificially Hiked Cement and Steel Prices”, “Affordable Houses No More Affordable, because of Artificially Hiked Cement and Steel Prices”…. Were some of the slogans raised by the participating stakeholders at various centers in the country.
BAI has been continuously raising its voice at various forums against the carteling and unnatural price hike by the cement and steel companies. It has been fighting the legal battle and has approached the government authorities against the unethical practices. The BAI has strongly demanded the constitution of regulatory authority for the sectors to curb the ill practices that ultimately pinch the general public and hinders the growth of the country.
“We have time and again requested the government to appoint a high-level enquiry on the reasons of abnormal cement price hike when there is neither any corresponding demand from the construction industry nor any substantial rise in input cost. It also needs to probe with a view to have a long-term solution to the unethical practices being followed by cement manufacturers. A quick and prompt action by the Government in the matter will not only save the employment of around 60 million construction workers, but also save the construction sector, which includes affordable housing, from potential shutdown,” said Mr. Mu. Moahan, President, Builders Association of India.
He said that the nationwide dharna protest and strike announced by BAI to attract the attention of the government agencies towards the grave problem the key sectors are facing received overwhelming response.
“All the stakeholders and their local groups, organisations representing other relevant sectors joined hands with us in solidarity and to protest the ill practices. Various judicial and quasi-judicial authorities such as Competition Commission of India (CCI), Monopolies And Restrictive Trade Practices Commission, Parliamentary Standing Committee of Ministry of Commerce have in their rulings and reports reaffirmed the unethical practice adopted by the cement and steel industries. Despite it, the profiteering and exploitation continues for years,” he added.
Competition Commission of India (CCI) is investigating if steelmakers colluded to hike rates, which have shot up by more than 45 percent since June 2020.The CCI has launched an investigation against steel companies for allegedly forming a cartel, the latest instance of the country’s anti-trust regulator scrutinising businesses to check if they are colluding to fix rates.
Recently, no less than Union Road Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari alleged that steel companies were indulging in cartelisation. “Every steel company has its own iron ore mines and there has been no increase in labour and power costs but they are increasing rates. It is difficult for me to understand the reason behind it. I would meet the prime minister and press for the constitution of the regulator for the industry,” the minister said.
Companies using steel have been crying hoarse on the increase in the rates. Steel is a key input for several industries, including auto, real estate and construction. Real estate companies have been fearing a reduction in their margins, up to 6 percent, because of the hike in steel prices. Industry body CREDAI shot off a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi in January, alleging that steel and cement makers were indulging in cartelisation.“With a continuous and sudden upsurge due to cartelisation in the prices of steel, cement and other raw materials, real estate developers are experiencing an inevitable increase in construction cost…Builders are facing an uphill task of further convincing the customers of this additional burden,” CREDAI had said.
Builders Association of India (BAI) is an apex all India body of Engineering Construction Contractors and Real Estate Companies founded in 1941, with more than 20,000 business entities as members through its 200 plus Centres (Branches) throughout the country. Regional Associations Affiliated to BAI form indirect membership of more than 1,00,000. The fundamental aim of the Association is to bring about all round improvements in the construction sector, while striving towards resolution of operational as well as policy level problems faced by the construction industry. This involves making efforts to obtain from policy makers and authorities, the level of attention that the construction industry deserves in view of its tremendous contribution and importance to the economy.
Construction is one of the most important economic activities contributing maximum GDP Growth and accounts for more than 50% of total plan outlay. It has a forward and backward link with more than 400 allied industries. It employs more than 60 million workers and next only to agriculture in employment.