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The Indian marble industry is in turmoil. A month after the Director General of Foreign Trade (DGFT) brought out a new marble import policy, it has reached the portals of the Supreme Court of India.

The Bangalore-headquartered All India Granite and Stone Association (AIGSA) has sought the intervention of the apex court alleging that DGFT’s notification was discriminatory and maintained that this would benefit only a handful of large marble producers with units across the country.

After hearing the petition, the Supreme Court has issued notices to the Centre and DGFT. “There is sufficient indication of the fact that the DGFT prescribed such criteria with a mala fide intention to create monopoly of the few select marble processing units in this sector,” the petitioner stated. It is alleged that an artificial scarcity of marble been created in the market to hike marble prices, which was neither in larger public interest nor was it providing a level playing ground for industries across the country.

Attributing extraneous reasons for the change of policy, the association said: “Because of the unreasonable and unjustified policy of the central government, the processing units located across the country are facing acute shortage of rough block marble and granite units are on the verge of becoming sick units.”

On August 4, the government released the policy for issue of import licenses of rough marble blocks for 2011-12. The import policy of rough marble blocks for 2011-12 has increased the quota from 3 lakh tonnes to 5 lakh tonnes.

DGFT‘s three new eligibility conditions have drawn the ire of small and medium enterprises in this segment. The conditions include that units which have an installed gang saw machine, except 100 per cent EOUs and units in SEZ should have these machines in the applicants’ name only. Those who have installed these machines on ‘lease basis’ become ineligible to apply for the import license. Secondly, these units should have been in operation for five years prior to March 31, 2011. Lastly, these units should have a cumulative turnover of Rs.5 crore every year from 2005-6 to 2009-10 from domestic or foreign business in processed marble slabs or tiles only.

Well, most of the marble units in India are in SME segment, barring a few big players and most of them have gone in for ‘lease’ route for gangsaw machines to undertake this business. Though many would meet the criteria of the Rs.5 crore turnover every year for the past five years, the bone of contention is that they have not achieved this turnover only through marble slabs or tiles.

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