Cement prices will come down soon: Minister

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Bangalore, May 13 (UNI) Union Minister of State for Industry and Commerce Ashwani Kumar today expressed confidence that cement prices would come down in the coming days.

Talking to newspersons here he said the government would take stringent action if it was found that the cement and steel prices had increased due to cartelisation of manufacturers.

He said the government had taken several steps to bring down cement and steel prices. The result could be seen in the coming days.

Mr Kumar said the heads of the cement industry would meet in New Delhi on May 15 and discuss the government's referral on reduction of cement prices.

Stating that the existing high price of steel and cement were momentary and would come down to a reasonable level, Mr Kumar warned that if the government found that the prices were 'artificially regulated,' strict measures would be initiated.

The skyrocketting price of petroleum products globally had a cascading effect on the prices of all the commodities including food grains, edible oil, cement and steel, Mr Kumar said.

He claimed that the prices of food grains in India were being maintained far below the international price due to timely intervention of the Centre.

''Containing the food grain prices and insulating the poor sections from its impact was at top of the agenda of the UPA government'' he added.

Referring to reports that excessive hoarding of essential commodities across the country also contributed to the increase of prices, Mr Kumar said Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had written to all the state governments appealing for measures . ''A massive de-hoarding drive will be undertaken across the country with the active cooperation of the respective state governments,'' he said.

Mr Kumar said ''the inflation rate will be brought down by a minimum of one per cent within eight to ten weeks. Reports say that this year there will be good monsoon and good wheat harvest.'' The country also had good buffer stocks of food grains to meet any eventuality, he added.

Replying to questions, Mr Kumar assured that there would be no reduction of PDS quota for any states. ''The existing PDS quota fixed for states will be maintained,'' he said.

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