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AHMEDABAD : Real-estate developers and contractors in Gujarat on Friday joined the day-long nationwide strike to protest against the "exorbitant hike" in prices of cement and steel.

Work has been stalled at 20,000 construction sites across the state, hitting 20 lakh daily-wage labourers, said Arvind Patel, chairman of Gujarat Contractors Association.

All major organisations associated with the real estate and construction sector, including Gujarat chapters of Builders' Association of India and Confederation of Real Estate Developers Association of India (CREDAI) have joined the nationwide strike.

There is an average 40 per cent hike in the prices of all key construction materials, mainly cement and steel, Patel said, adding that diesel and bitumen prices have also risen significantly.

"The hike in prices will ultimately affect customers, who will have to shell out more money, as the construction costs will also shoot up," he said.

The rise in cost of materials will adversely affect the nation's growth trajectory, he said.

"Steel and cement are some of the major construction materials used in all segments of the industry. Since contractors mostly work on fixed rate-fixed time basis, the frequent rise in prices will make it difficult for them to survive," Patel said.

Meanwhile, CREDAI Gujarat president Ashish Patel said although there are five cement manufacturing plants in Gujarat, prices here are higher than in Bihar, which does not have a single plant.

"In Gujarat, the price of one cement bag is around 300, while in Bihar it costs 240. Such a high price increases the construction cost. This open loot must end. The government should form a regulatory body to govern steel and cement prices," he said.

As against the ideal price of 37,000 per tonne, steel prices have skyrocketed to 60,000 a few months ago.

"After we made a representation, it came down to around 50,000 per tonne recently. However, this rate is still high. Ideally, it should be around 37,000. Though these companies were fined in the past for such trade practices, nothing has changed," Patel said.

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