Vexed with govt,Morbi ceramic units’ owners turn to Congress

‘Shutdown costs the industry Rs 60 crore daily’.

Written by Gopal Kateshiya | Rajkot | Published: December 7, 2013 3:56 am

The ongoing shutdown of ceramic industry in Morbi has seemingly irked a few loyal supporters of the BJP in the industry. Since the ceramic unit owners have not received any favourable response from the state government on their demands,they have now begun to seek help from the Congress.

A delegation of ceramic industry associations leaders met Gujarat Pradesh Congress Committee (GPCC) president Arjun Modhwadia on Thursday and sought his help in conveying their grievance on the excise and and anti-dumping duty to the Central government.

The industry,which remained shut for the 10th day on Friday,is seeking reduction in excise from its current rate of 12.36 per cent to six per cent and bring it at par with other construction material like marble. The unit owners’ associations are also demanding re-imposition of 150 per cent anti-dumping duty on ceramic products imported from China. “I have suggested them to make a representation with authorities concerned in the Central government for reduction in excise and then I shall lead their delegation to Delhi. I have also assured them of help on issue of anti-dumping duty,” Modhwadia said. “Their real problems are gas prices and VAT rate of 15 per cent. They are taking along excise and anti-dumping duty to strike a balance in their demand from state and central governments,” he added.

However,local Congress leaders say the party was not seeking any political gains from the standoff. “We are not trying to get any political mileage out of the issue. After all,lakhs of workers are also suffering from the ongoing indefinite shutdown,” in-charge president of Rajkot District Congress Committee,Brijesh Merja,who facilitated the meeting,said.

Incidentally,Morbi is a BJP bastion with the party winning almost all the three seats — Morbi,Tankara and Halvad — in Assembly elections held during the two decades. The ceramic associations had weighed Chief Minister Narendra Modi in 93 kg of silver in August this year during the inauguration of the new district of Morbi. Sources claim the ceramic kiln owners provide fund to the saffron party.

Except rolling back the gas price hike,the state government did not respond to their other demands during the three-day ultimatum prior to the shutdown. The industry associations made their unhappiness towards the government public. They have put up around 1,000 billboards on roads leading to Morbi and within the town under the banner “Grave injustice to ceramic industry.” A few billboards read,“Is this a conspiracy to kill the ceramic industry of Morbi?”

The weariness in the camp of agitators in Morbi and their leaders is visible. Association leaders met Minister of State for Rural Development and MLA from Halvad,Jayanti Kavadia,Morbi MLA Kantilal Amrutiya and Tankara MLA Mohan Kundaria,who owns a few ceramic units himself,for the third day on Friday. However,they could not meet Industry and Energy Minister Saurabh Patel.

“The three MLAs have been making representation on our behalf. We have not sought any direct meeting with Saurabh Patel or the Chief Minister,” says Divyesh Patel,president of Morbi-Dhuva Glaze Tiles Association.

Besides the industry losing a daily turnover of Rs 60 crore and affecting five lakh workers,the shutdown is also affecting the revenue of the state government.

The industry pays Rs 500 crore VAT to the state government annually. GSPC has around 50 per cent of its industrial customer base in Morbi and collects around 70 per cent of its revenues from there.

Closure of coal gasifier the catalyst

Rajkot: The Rs 22,000 crore industry had started indefinite shutdown from November 27,days after GSPC Gas,a Gujarat government-owned company supplying piped natural gas (PNG) to the 600 units in Morbi and Wankaner,hiked prices of gas by around Rs 4 per standard cubic metre (SCM). However,industry sources concede the real catalyst was Gujarat High Court directive ordering closure of coal gas plants of these units in early November. GSPC was supplying PNG at around Rs 20 in 2007-08. But,by 2010,the prices shot up to Rs 30. To maintain price competitiveness of their projects,kiln owners turned to coal gas,which comes at half the cost of PNG. Almost all the units set up gasifiers,costing average Rs1.25 crore each. However,the HC order forced the kilns to return to PNG. In November,the PNG rate went up to Rs 44/SCM which the government rolled back by Rs 2 after the shutdown threat. ens

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