Can you assure that steel plants will not be privatised: Cong to Steel Minister HD Kumaraswamy

07:46 PM Jun 11, 2024 | PTI |

The Congress on Tuesday asked new Steel Minister H D Kumaraswamy whether he will give an assurance that steel plants, including the ones in Visakhapatnam and Salem, will not be privatised.


Kumaraswamy is new steel minister in a “rusted” government, Congress general secretary Jairam Ramesh said and posed a set of five questions relating to steel plants in Visakhapatnam, Salem, Nagarnar, Bhadrawati and Durgapur.

Hitting out at Prime Minister Narendra Modi, he said in a post on X that the previous administration had proposed the sale of Rashtriya Ispat Nigam Limited (RINL), commonly known as the Vizag Steel Plant, to the prime minister’s friends.

More than one lakh people rely on it for their livelihoods and RINL unions have peacefully protesting since the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs’ January 2021 approval for 100 per cent privatisation of RINL, its joint ventures, and subsidiaries, he said. Employees report that deliberate government negligence is pushing the once thriving steel plant into increasing losses, Ramesh added.

“Will Mr Kumaraswamy provide a written commitment that he will not sell the Vizag Steel Plant to the ‘one-third’ Pradhan Mantri’s industrialist friends,” he went on to ask.


In 2019, he said, the previous administration decided to disinvest in the Salem steel plant and a massive rally of almost 2,000 people, including workers, their families and many farmers who gave up their land for it, soon took to the streets to oppose the privatisation of the special steel unit.

The plant, Ramesh said, covers an area of almost 25 villages, 18 or 19 of which have disappeared since it was built.

“Workers alleged that the plant was being intentionally mismanaged, and that the leadership of Steel Authority of India Limited had been reduced to a mouthpiece for the ruling party. The Centre has been unable to sell the plant so far. Will Mr. Kumaraswamy fulfil the ‘one-third’ Pradhan Mantri’s dreams of privatising this plant,” Ramesh asked.

The Congress leader said the prime minister had dedicated the Nagarnar Steel Plant – conceptualised and initiated by Manmohan Singh’s government – to the public in October 2023, with much fanfare.

The people of Bastar hoped the mammoth Rs 23,800 crore plant would lead to development in Bastar and create thousands of opportunities for local youth, he said. In reality, however, the prime minister has been planning to privatise this plant since 2020 when it was decided to sell a majority stake of 50.79 per cent to cronies, the Congress leader claimed.

“In the lead up to Assembly elections last year, Home Minister Amit Shah came to Bastar and promised that the plant will not be privatised. Will Mr. Kumaraswamy stay true to that promise, or will he sell this steel plant to the ‘one-third’ Pradhan Mantri’s closest friends and financiers,” Ramesh asked.

Since October 2022, the PM’s previous administration initiated the shutdown of the Visveswaraya Iron and Steel Plant of SAIL at Bhadravati in Karnataka, he said.

“The government then gave the excuse in Parliament that the plant doesn’t have a captive iron ore source in Karnataka – a bold-faced lie since Bhadravati is less than 250 km away from Ballari. In fact, a mining lease was allocated to SAIL in October 2011. Rather than attempting to shut down the plant will Mr. Kumaraswamy take urgent measures to revive it,” he asked.

He also claimed that the previous administration of the prime minister had attempted to sell the Alloy Steel Plant in Durgapur.

“It has since appeared to backtrack, but with the repeated flip-flops that the ‘one-third’ pradhan mantri has been known to make, the people of Durgapur have little confidence in the Government’s plans for the future. Can Mr. Kumaraswamy reassure the people of Durgapur and West Bengal that he will not oversee the privatization of the steel plant,” Ramesh asked.


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