“I’m not sure what we did wrong. Why are we getting this treatment now? “asks Kanta Sharma, referring to a closed cement plant in the Himachal Pradesh state of northern India.
It is one of two factories in Darlaghat that were shut down in December by its owner, the Adani Group, leaving thousands of residents without employment. The other plant is situated around 48 kilometers (30 miles) away.
Since her husband’s passing in 2009, Ms. Sharma has relied only on the plant for her means of subsistence. To buy a truck to deliver cement and raw materials to and from the plant, she took out a loan and depleted her resources. The family obtained its small plot of the property when the facility was constructed.
The third richest man in the world and billionaire Gautam Adani’s Adani Group purchased the factories in September but immediately found itself embroiled in a freight costs battle with local transport unions. The business said that due to the losses it was suffering as a result of “excessive shipping expenses,” operations had become “unviable.”
In addition to the 2,000–3,000 individuals directly employed by these plants, many others have been impacted by the standoff.
According to RD Nazeem, the state’s industries and transport secretary, “around 10,000 to 15,000 people are indirectly dependent on these plants, including truck operators, drivers, cleaners, [workers at] roadside cafes and vehicle repair shops.”
“These are folks who lost their homes and their land because they donated them to these factories.”
Locals dominate the transport industry in the region; many of them gave up their productive farmland when the plants were built in the 1990s.
The Adani group intends to lower this price to six rupees from the current close to 11 rupees (13 cents; 11 pence) per tonne of cement per kilometer. Due to the rising cost of fuel, transporters claim that the freight charges are reasonable.
According to The Adani Group, if carriers provide the required cooperation, it wishes to “continue its operations in both places.” The fact that “local transport unions prevent other transporters from operating at competitive prices” is “unfortunate,” it was further said.
According to the statement, “the firm should be able to employ trucks wherever they are needed to ease transportation, ensuring a free market approach to best serves our consumers.”
However, locals contend that since they gave up their “fertile land” for the plants, they should have priority in operating the trucks for those plants.
Mahesh Kumar, a local, claims that “people living in these areas spent their meager money into buying vehicles so they could transport goods from this business.” Their future is uncertain with the factory closed.
In the early 1990s, the land was purchased to build the cement mills in Darlaghat
According to Paras Thakur, a local, “cultivable land was obtained for 62,000 rupees per bigha (a local unit of measurement equaling around 0.2 acres) whereas non-cultivable property was acquired for 19,000 rupees.”
The residents at the time thought that the industries would give their kids jobs so they wouldn’t have to move far in search of work.
Since 1992, Mr. Thakur claims that despite more than 1,400 acres of land being taken from five villages, just 72 families’ members have found employment in the facilities.
According to the Adani Group, 143 workers from the two factories are being transferred to the company’s other sites to preserve their jobs.
“We once raised a variety of crops. We used to grow several types of pulses, wheat, and corn. We regret giving this land to the cement plant today “explains Prem Lal Thakur, a local.
According to the state administration, a strategy to fix freight rates that are advantageous to the public is being developed.
Residents, though, lack optimism.
“First, our lands were lost. Then, the employment guarantees fell through. Additionally, the factories were shut down due to freight prices when we tried to make money through transportation. Can it possibly go worse? Ms. Sharma says.
Other residents of the area are asking this question.