The 67-day deadlock between the two Adani Group-owned cement plants in Himachal Pradesh and truckers' unions over freight charges ended on Monday with the two sides agreeing on new rates, the state government said.
The cement plants at Barmana (Bilaspur district) and Darlaghat (Solan district) had closed operations on December 14 due to the dispute between the company and truckers engaged in the carriage of cement and clinkers.
According to a government statement, Chief Minister Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu said, "We have arrived at consensus, thereby protecting the interests of both the truck-operator unions and the management, besides welfare of all others who were being directly or indirectly hit by the stalemate."
The truck unions were demanding that the freight charges be increased, but interestingly the new rates are less than the existing charges.
"The new freight rates from tomorrow for single-axle trucks of 12 tons would be Rs 10.30 per ton per km for Ambuja Cements' Darlaghat plant and ACC's Gagal plant as compared to earlier rates of Rs 11.41 for ACC's Gagal (Bilaspur district) and Rs 10.58 for Ambuja Cements' Darlaghat units," the Adani Group, which acquired the two cement companies last September, said in a statement.
The new rates for multi-axle 24-ton trucks would be Rs 9.30 per ton per km for both units, it said.
"This will result in an overall reduction of 10-12 per cent in the freight rates benefiting the customers of Himachal Pradesh," it said.
"This outcome is positive for ACC and Ambuja Cements and all the stakeholders involved. In line with our commitments, we are pleased to share that ACC and Ambuja Cements will resume operations effective tomorrow at the Gagal and Darlaghat plants in Himachal Pradesh," it said.
Sukhu, who had been supporting the truck unions, said, "We are here to promote the industries, we are committed to provide them a favourable environment."
The Gagal and Darlaghat units are among the largest industrial units in the state and play a vital role in providing employment and contributing to the economic viability of the state.
The chief minister said that an acceptable solution to this matter has been achieved due to the coordinated efforts of all.
After the change of ownership of the cement factories, the new management refused to provide freight at the old rates and the dispute came to the fore just five days after the Congress government assumed power and the two plants were shut, the CM said.
Besides truckers and company, the state government was incurring a loss of Rs 2 crore per day in taxes due to the closure, and till date it suffered a loss to the tune of about Rs 134 crores, said the government statement.
The truck unions were demanding that the freight charges be increased from Rs 10.58 to Rs 10.71 as was done by the Ultratech cement plant at Baga, which is within 20 km of vicinity of both the Adani cement plants, with five percent rebate on multiple axles while the Adani group was offering Rs 10 for six-ton single-axle trucks and Rs 9 for double-axles.
Sukhu said the principal secretary (industries) and other officers would chalk out a formula related to the annual increase in freight rates. Instructions have been given to the deputy commissioners of Solan and Bilaspur to solve the other problems of truck operators, he said.
There are about 6,500 trucks attached to the two cement plants and the grounding of trucks had hit the livelihood of thousands of families.
"The truckers with no other other income and loan repayment were the worst hit.
"But shutting down of cement plants has also hit the income of mechanics, dhaba owners and the people are desperately looking for work on daily wages to run their houses," says Ram Lal, a truck owner.
The truckers were losing Rs 20,00 to Rs 3,000 per day, says Bhaghi Rath, who owns a truck.