By Mahendra Singhi
At the outset, I would like to congratulate the Government for achieving a landslide victory, which is a victory for the people of India. Continuity of policies and stability of government form the bedrock for sustainable growth in an economy. A second tenure for the present Government at the Centre is a welcome sign for the Indian economy that is moving India towards a double-digit growth that is both inclusive and sustainable. The Cement Industry is a very important partner for the Government to build an inclusive growth story for the people of India. The Indian Cement Industry has over the years contributed significantly towards – employment generation, the government exchequer and Indian Railways (by way of freight). Appreciably, the Cement Industry is also an environment friendly sector, consumes wastes/hazardous materials, adopted renewable energy and supports the Government’s Swacchh Bharat campaign. The sector continues to invest towards ensuring a greener future.
The infrastructure sector has received significant attention and investment in the last five years under the NDA government led by the Hon’ble Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi. This includes massive budgetary allocation for road, railways, highways, rise in public construction projects, announcement of Bharatmala Project, Smart Cities mission coupled with the project-based AMRUT (Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation) programme, Housing for All by 2022, Pradhan Mantri Awaas Yojana-Gramin (PMAY-G) and Pradhan Mantri Gramin Sadak Yojana (PMGSY) amongst others.
This trend is likely to be strengthened as the Bharatiya Janata Party in its election manifesto ‘Sankalp Patra’ has provided special impetus to infrastructure development and announced a series of initiatives and policy programmes for the coming five years. These include a capital investment of Rs 100 lakh crore in the infrastructure sector, construction of 60,000 kms of National Highways, dedicated freight corridor project and doubling the number of functional airports.
The Cement Manufacturers Association (CMA) would like to engage and work closely with the Government to find mutually beneficial solutions that will have a positive impact on the economy. Implementing government’s agenda on renewable energy by putting up 175 GW of renewable power would go a long way in transforming India to meet its national determined contributions for climate change. The Indian cement sector would like to actively participate in this initiative and looks forward to various policy interventions, which can support captive renewable power capacities.
The Cement Industry in India has been investing heavily to ensure that the Industry in India remains at the cutting edge of technology and addresses global concerns like sustainability. Presently the Indian Cement sector has a surplus capacity of around 25% and considering the same, the import of cement from countries like Pakistan and Bangladesh should be dissuaded. The Government is fully aware of various constraints being faced in the mining sector by the Cement Industry for which immediate interventions would be required to create ease of doing business. This would also support the Make in India initiative by maximising utilisation of India’s mineral wealth deeply in a sustainable manner.
The Government undoubtedly has to balance the aspirations of a growing population with the needs of tomorrow to ensure consistent improvements in the quality of life, infrastructure and well being. The Cement Industry has immense forward and backward linkages, pivotal role in both the infrastructure and socio-economic development of the Country. Its position as a key building material, enables cement to take up a critical role as the binding and vital force for all infrastructure projects such as roads, bridges, housing, sanitation and water conservation and contribute to building of the nation.
A positive demand outlook led by Government announcements of infrastructure development, be it urban infrastructure, roads, railways, airports, education, health or sanitation, holds immense significance for the cement sector in India. With ambitious infrastructure plans on the anvil and the kind of stimulus that affordable housing is receiving from the Government, there exist growth opportunities for the Cement Industry in India. We feel that the need at this juncture is to build platforms for more intense engagement and exchange of ideas between policy makers and the Cement Industry towards building a transparent policy ecosystem that promotes inclusive, fair and sustainable growth.
The author is President, Cement Manufacturers Association (CMA), and MD & CEO, Dalmia Cement (Bharat) Ltd. The views expressed are the author’s own.