Come clear on privatisation of steel plants, Congress urges Kumaraswamy

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Jairam Ramesh
| Photo Credit: ANI

The Congress on June 11 posed a series of questions to the new Steel Minister, H.D. Kumaraswamy, on the issue of disinvestment and privatisation of steel plants, including the ones at Visakhapatnam and Salem.

In a statement, Congress general secretary (communications) Jairam Ramesh said Mr. Kumaraswamy is the new Steel Minister in a “rusted” government, and posed a set of five questions relating to steel plants in Visakhapatnam, Salem, Nagarnar, Bhadrawati and Durgapur.

‘Deliberate govt. negligence’

Mr. Ramesh said the previous Modi government had proposed the sale of Rashtriya Ispat Nigam Limited (RINL), commonly known as the Vizag Steel Plant, to the “Prime Minister’s friends”.

The Congress leader said that more than one lakh people rely on it for their livelihoods. The RINL unions had been peacefully protesting since January 2021, when the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs gave its approval for 100 per cent privatisation of RINL, its joint ventures, and subsidiaries. Employees report that deliberate government negligence is pushing the once-thriving steel plant into losses, he 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,” Mr. Ramesh asked. The issue is an important one as the BJP’s key ally, the Telugu Desam Party (TDP), had strongly opposed the Vizag Steel Plant disinvestment proposal.

Mr. Ramesh said that in 2019, the administration decided to disinvest 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, took to streets in protest.

“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,” Mr Ramesh asked.

Similarly, he raised the issue of the Visveswaraya Iron and Steel Plant of SAIL at Bhadravati in Karnataka, the Nagarnar Steel Plant in Chhattisgarh’s Bastar and the Alloy Steel Plant in West Bengal’s Durgapur.

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