Fifty-two day long impasse between Gautam Adani owned cement group and truck unions refused to end on Friday even as Chief Minister Sukhwinder Singh Sukhu took upon himself to end the crisis, first-ever after Adani group taking over two mega cement plants in Himachal Pradesh.
The only interim breakthrough that the Chief Minister could make was to make the truck unions agree to deferring transporters’ “Chakka Jam” proposed for February 4.
“We decided to defer Chakka Jam at behest of Chief Minister sahib who is making sincere effort to resolve this prolonged crisis even as we know Adani group is still adamant to hike the freight charges submitted by us to the government”, said Naresh Gupta, President of federation of all truck unions engaged at cement plants.
The truckers strike has already caused a massive economic loss to the state government and impacted the livelihoods of more than 2,500 families depending on transport and related earnings.There are more than 6,000 trucks engaged in transportation of cement.
Adani group had shut down both its cement plants without notice in retaliation to unions' demand for revision of the freight tariffs between Rs 10.58 per quintal per km to Rs 11.41 per quintal per km at Darlaghat Ambuja cement plant and ACC Barmana respectively.
These two plants were taken over by Adani group in September 2022.
The group which has made its own calculations about the freight rates had rather slashed the existing charges to Rs 6 per quintal per km and refused to make any revision terming the demands of the truck unions as highly ‘unreasonable and unacceptable”.
This is the reason for the stalemate as the truck unions had gone on strike forcing the closure of the cement carriage hitting the operations.
The truck unions on Thursday had claimed that they had decided to offer a lower freight of Rs 10.20 per quintal per km to which Adani group has not given any response so far.
A senior government official, who was part of the meeting on Friday when the Chief Minister had invited the truck unions, said that the management of the cement plants were not prepared to accept any offer above Rs 8 per quintal per km and it was unlikely that the impasse would end soon.
“Chief Minister told us that he had asked the officials to hold deliberations with Adani group representatives and inform them about the stand taken by the truck unions, and also that the government wants to see an amicable settlement without loss of any more time”, said an official spokesman.
The Chief Minister said that the state government clearly believes that this deadlock should be resolved through a universal solution. The government was of the opinion that work should start in the factory and the future of the employees, including truck operators, should also be secured.
Chief Parliamentary Secretary Sanjay Awasthi, who is also the MLA from the area, shared the concern over daily loss which the state exchequer was suffering due to closure of the cement plants and transporters strike but efforts that the government will watch the interests of local truck unions.
Rough estimates suggest loss to GST on cement and sale of diesel ,besides electricity supply to the plants has already crossed Rs 200 cr .This doesn’t include the impact on local communities thriving on truck movements. They include mechanics workshops, dhabas, ration shops, chemists and fruit/vegetable sellers.
Meanwhile it is learnt that the government had asked Deputy Commissioners of Bilaspur and Solan to proceed against the company in their administrative capacities and slap notices under various provisions of law to force them to resume the operations at their plants. Even land transfers to the company and transfer of assets of two earlier companies ACC Barmana and Ambuja cement Ltd to Adani group were also scrutinised.
The issue has already taken political overtones as why did the company decide to shut down plants after the change of the government. A rift between the truckers unions,many affiliated to the rival political parties, is also a reason for delay in resolving the crisis.