Amidst rising tension, BJP leader and Rajya Sabha MP Subramanian Swamy has urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to ban import of cement from Pakistan in the interest of domestic industry and national security.
"I request you to ban import of cement into the country not only in the interest of growth and sustenance of domestic cement industry but also in keeping with the imperatives of national security. Ban of import from Pakistan will be in the interest of the country's security in the present juncture," Swamy said in a letter to Modi.
He said import of cement without levy of customs duty was introduced in 2007 to augment supply in view of high demand.
He said the situation has since changed and the domestic industry has added a lot of capacity which is not being utilised, with around 116 million tonnes cement capacity lying idle due to stagnating demand in the country.
He also referred to reports of recovery of drugs like heroin and fake Indian currency notes concealed in cement bags imported from Pakistan.
"Allowing imports of cement from Pakistan, therefore, carried with it the additional risk in that it provides an effective cover for smuggling of contraband goods and harmful weapons and ammunition concealed in cement bags which comes in rakes and trucks, in the hands of disruptionist elements," he said.
The BJP leader said the industry today has a capacity utilisation of less than 70% with units in South India posting even lesser capacity utilsation. He added that capital investment of more than Rs 90,000 crore required for creation of this capacity is lying stranded.
"India has become a dumping ground for imported cement, particularly from Pakistan, China and Bangladesh. It is ironical that while on every front Pakistan continues to trouble us, India continues to allow duty-free import of cement from Pakistan at the cost of Indian cement industry," he said.
Swamy said, "Importing cement with higher margins from Pakistan also goes against the 'Made in India concept'... This also strikes at the very root of your vision of the concept of 'Making in India',"
The BJP leader said there is reverse charge duty structure as material required for cement manufacture attracts import duty while the finished product is not.