Facing a severe lack of infrastructure, industrialists in Himachal Pradesh have gone knocking at chief minister Virbhadra Singh's door demanding freight rate regulation.
The state chapter of Confederation of Industries in India (CII) is sore over the freight rate in Himachal being higher as compared to other states, stating that it's the biggest cause behind losses being faced by the industries set up in the state.
The transportation rate of private goods carriers in Rajasthan is Rs 2 per kilometre while it is Rs 9 per kilometre in Himachal.
Cement firms in the state are blaming high freight to be the reason behind high cement prices, which is why they are unable to bring down cement prices despite the government's insistence on doing so.
Freight is decided by truck unions and the government has no direct interference in it. Industries have been demanding that the government set up a regulatory body which can decide upon the freight rates.
The ACC cement plant at Barmana, Bilaspur, and Jaypee's at Darlaghat in Solan alone engage approximately 13,000 trucks through unions.
Industrialists expressed their reservation before the chief minister saying they would be forced to close down their units due to the losses being incurred. A representative of TVS, a vehicle manufacturer, informed the chief minister that truck unions had decided to deliver stock only to the dealer and not to the godown, so they had to pay full freight for half-loaded vehicles. Moreover, industries are unable to have their own transport wing due to pressure from the existing truck unions.
Industry minister Mukesh Agnihotri said various issues, including the high freight rates, were discussed at a meeting between the chief minister and industrialists. "I will also speak to the chief minister about their demand and will see what can be done," he said.
The industry body also raised demand of a common effluent treatment plant at Baddi to treat the industrialist waste that usually flowed into local nullahs and rivulets as well as the creation of a skill development centre.
They also urged the state to ensure a metro line between Chandigarh and Baddi besides expediting the railway line and four-laning work to ease transportation and put pressure on truck unions. There are 10,000 trucks in the Baddi-Barotiwala-Nalagarh region alone.
The chief minister assured the industrialists that he would look into the matter and also sought suggestions from the departments concerned, asking them to comment on the issue of high freight.
Chairman of CII's Himachal chapter Rajiv Aggarwal and former chairman Arun Rawat led the delegation.
Industries minister Mukesh Agnihotri told Hindustan Times that industrialists had complained about the high freight rates. "We are finding a mechanism to regulate the rates since the government has no control over truck unions," said Agnihotri, adding that truck unions in the state were strong and in the past had resisted the government's move to control the freight.