Congress Questions Steel Minister on Disinvestment and Privatization of Steel Plants

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On June 11, the Congress party addressed a series of questions to the newly appointed Steel Minister, H.D. Kumaraswamy, regarding the disinvestment and privatization of steel plants, including those located in Visakhapatnam and Salem.

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

Mr. Ramesh highlighted that 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”.

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He emphasized that the livelihoods of more than one lakh people depend on this plant. The RINL unions have been peacefully protesting since January 2021, following the approval by the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs for the complete privatization of RINL, its joint ventures, and subsidiaries. Employees claim that deliberate government negligence is causing the once-thriving steel plant to incur losses.

Mr. Ramesh questioned whether Mr. Kumaraswamy would provide a written commitment to refrain from selling the Vizag Steel Plant to the “one-third” industrialist friends of the Prime Minister. This issue holds significance as the Telugu Desam Party (TDP), a key ally of the BJP, strongly opposed the proposal for disinvestment of the Vizag Steel Plant.

The Congress leader mentioned that in 2019, the administration decided to disinvest the Salem steel plant, leading to a massive rally of nearly 2,000 people, including workers, their families, and many farmers who had sacrificed their land for the plant.

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Workers alleged intentional mismanagement of the plant and claimed that the leadership of Steel Authority of India Limited had been reduced to a mouthpiece for the ruling party. The government has been unsuccessful in selling the plant thus far. Mr. Ramesh questioned whether Mr. Kumaraswamy would fulfill the Prime Minister’s dreams of privatizing this plant.

Additionally, Mr. Ramesh raised concerns about the Visveswaraya Iron and Steel Plant of SAIL in Bhadravati, Karnataka, the Nagarnar Steel Plant in Bastar, Chhattisgarh, and the Alloy Steel Plant in Durgapur, West Bengal.

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