The government has invited cement makers for talks later this week, finance minister P Chidambaram said on Monday. "If they (cement makers) find difficulties in adding capacity or accessing coal or raw materials, certainly government will help them in that regard," Mr Chidambaram said in his reply to the debate on Budget 2007-08 in the Rajya Sabha.
"The government has once again invited the cement manufacturers to meet later this week, so that we can have their proposals, if any, and their suggestions," he said amid the din caused by the opposition members protesting the killing of people in police firing in Nandigram, West Bengal.
He said the government is keeping a careful watch on the cement price situation. The House passed the vote on account by voice vote. The Appropriation Bill was passed by Lok Sabha last week.
Mr Chidambaram said the government will take appropriate steps to convince cement manufacturers to act in the interest of the economy and consumers. Cement manufacturers had hiked the retail price of the commodity by Rs 12 per 50 kg bag after the government announced a dual taxation on the product in this budget.
The budget hiked the duty to Rs 600 against the earlier level of Rs 400 a tonne in case cement is sold higher than Rs 190 per 50 kg bag, but reduced it to Rs 350 a tonne in case it is sold less than Rs 190. After days of resistance, manufacturers relented and agreed to hold the price line for a year. But, they said any cut in prices was possible only if duty was reduced.