Three companies which ‘exploit’ Meghalaya’s limestone reserve to produce cement are the ‘biggest contributors’ to the BJP’s election campaign fund.
Sources said Topcem Cement, Star Cement and Amrit Cement, which have captive limestone mines and cement production units in East Jaintia hills district of Meghalaya, contributed Rs 4.22 crore to the BJP in 2018-2019.
Star Cement, the largest producer of cement in Northeast India had paid the saffron party in two installments, while Amrit Cement paid only once.
Meghalaya Cements Limited, which is the producer of the brand Topcem Cement, made payments to BJP’s election fund in three installments.
Star Cement paid Rs 2.68 crores, while Topcem Cement paid Rs 1.38 crores to the BJP’s election fund, the sources said, adding that Amrit Cement paid Rs 21 lakhs.
While Topcem Cement and the two other companies ‘exploit’ Meghalaya’s huge limestone reserve and availed ‘benefits’ under the North East Industrial & Investment Promotion Policy (NEIIPP), it is surprising as to why it selectively contributed to BJP’s election fund.
Though BJP is leading the NDA government under leadership of Narendra Modi, the saffron party is ‘non-descript’ political force in Meghalaya. The party has only two MLAs in the state.
As per records, Topcem Cement, Star Cement and Amrit Cement did not make any contribution to the campaign funds of the Indian National Congress.
There is no information of the three cement companies funding the state political parties of Meghalaya, including the UDP, KHNAM or the HSPDP.
The details of three cement companies of Meghalaya selectively contributing to the BJP’s election fund is definitely going to draw ire of the regional political parties, and the pressure groups.
The Confederation of Meghalaya Social Organisation (CoMSO), which is a conglomerate of several groups, has been demanding for implementation of Inner Line Permit (ILP) in Meghalaya, and is not happy with the BJP for the ‘dilly-dally’ on the issue.
The Meghalaya Assembly on December 19 last year had passed a resolution to urge Centre to implement ILP to safeguard the interests of the indigenous citizens of the state.
While CoMSO is annoyed with the BJP on ILP issue, people in East Jaintia hills district of Meghalaya are not happy with two of the cement companies — Topcem Cement and Star Cement.
Topcem Cement and Star cement have been accused of polluting two rivers — Wah Lukha and Wah Lunar.
In fact, Wah Lukha has turned ‘deep blue’ because of high level of pollution, and the Khasi Students Union (KSU) has raised the issue with the state government.
KSU has set a deadline of three weeks to the Meghalaya government to identify the root cause of the changing colour of Wah Lukha, and to resolve the problem.
Meanwhile, Topcem Cement has earned the dubious distinction of ‘looting’ the indigenous tribal people of the state.
The Meghalaya Cements Limited, which sells its cement under the brand name Topcem Cement, has been selling every bag to the tribal population of Meghalaya at a ‘higher price’.
It was found that people in Shillong and Jowai pay Rs 40 to 60 more for every bag of Topcem Cement they buy.
Price of a bag of Topcem Cement in Assam ranged between Rs 390 to Rs 420, while the cost was Rs 440 to 450 in Meghalaya.
Meghalaya government has already instituted an inquiry into the issue of ‘disparity’ in cement prices. The inquiry is being headed by Pravin Bakshi, secretary for Consumer Affairs of Meghalaya.