Sukhu’s first big test: Resolving tussle between Adani, truckers read full article at

IN JUST ABOUT a month since taking charge as the Chief Minister of Himachal Pradesh, a tussle between the Adani Group and the state’s truckers over freight rates to move cement from the group’s two units has landed on the government’s table posing the first big challenge to Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu.

A meeting between the truck operators and the management of the cement companies was held in the state Secretariat on Friday to break the impasse between the truck operators and the Adani Group. But there was no resolution.

“In the meeting that took place, there has been no agreement. We are trying to find a common ground. A sub committee has been formed and several meetings have been held. HIMCON has also submitted its report which is yet to be seen. The rates will be notified by the state government. Both parties have ensured cooperation and we will monitor the situation,” said Industries Minister Harshwardhan Chauhan.

“It is a matter of great concern that the livelihood of the truck operators has been disrupted. We will inform the outcome of the meeting to the CM and decide accordingly,” Minister Chauhan said.

Government sources said Chief Minister Sukhu is closely monitoring the situation. For the past 38 days, the truck unions have been protesting the freight rate of Rs 6 per ton per km (PTPK) fixed by the cement units. The transporters said these were very low rates, and demanded about Rs 10.58-11.41 per ton per km.

In what has put pressure on the truckers as well as the state government, the management of Adani Cement shut down the Ambuja Cements Limited (ACL) plant at Darlaghat in Solan and the ACC plant at Barmana in Bilaspur on December 15, just three days after Sukhu took over as the Chief Minister.

The closure, government sources said, impacted over 20,000 families in the region as transport operations were halted. More than 2,900 trucks at ACL Darlaghat and nearly 3,500 trucks were engaged in ACC Barmana. On its part, the Adani Group offered relocation of 85 employees of Darlaghat and 58 employees of Barmana to sister plants of the group in the northern region.

The transport operators told The Indian Express that the official rate is Rs 10.58 PTPK in Darlaghat and Rs 11.41 PTPK in Barmana. They also demanded that the recent rise in diesel prices should be accounted for while deciding on the freight rates afresh.

The state government has tasked Himachal Consultancy Organisation (HIMCON) to prepare a report to evaluate the freight rate for transporting cement for the Adani Group. The costs are decided on a formula listed by the High Court based on 11 parameters including taxes, insurance, depreciation value, repair, and wages among others.

Principal Secretary (Transport) RD Nazeem, who is the head of the committee, stated that HIMCON would decide the cost of transportation pertaining to different vehicles used.

The organisation was asked to send a revised blueprint on the basis of increase of diesel VAT by Rs 3 last week.

The government has also formed a sub-committee to initiate talks between various stakeholders including transport unions and cement companies. So far, the talks have not yielded any mutual agreement.

The Adani Group has told the sub-committee that the transportation market in the state was completely controlled by unions. The company also said that the trucks in Ambuja and ACC units elsewhere travel 80,000 km to 100,000 km per annum. But in Himachal, the km-distance travelled by trucks is just a quarter of the national average of 1 lakh kms, the sources said.

The truck operators have also stepped up protests.

“The group (Adani) has offered us nearly half of the rate we demanded and they even shut down the plants without any notice. In the meeting, the group submitted their proposal to the government. We have to deliberate on the same,” said Jai Dev Kaundal, who heads the truck operators union in Solan.

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