Privatization of Public Sector Units ( PSUs) has become highly trending topic in India in the recent times. Every where it’s a buzzing word, be it a TV show, News Paper Headlines Or Social Media debates.
When it comes to Telugu States, the announcement of the Vizag Steel Plant Privatization has set fire to protests and staged dharnas by locals, various NGOs and political parties.
The question is why even a common man ( who has no direct connection with the plant) is opposing the Vizag Steel Plant Privatization proposal. What’s so special about Vizag Steel Plant and how come the people of this area are so connected emotionally to the company.
The story of Vizag Steel Plant Privatization
Rashtriya Ispat Nigam Ltd (RINL), or popularly known as Vizag Steel Plant has been approved by the Cabinet to be privatized as the government currently holds 100% stake in the company.
The NDA Government alleges that the company has been incurring heavy losses since 2017. In contrast to the government’s claim, RINL functions as two sub divisions – The Orissa Minerals Development Company Ltd. (OMDC) and The Bisra Stone Lime Company Ltd. (BSLC).
The government very strategically started the process in September 2020 and compelled the RINL board to approve a revised voluntary retirement scheme for employees for cost cutting and improvement in quality. They had revised the VRS scheme which is applicable to employees who have completed 15 years of service and have attained 45 years.
The lease rights of all the six mines have expired and are not in operation. The necessary actions could be taken by the government to restart mining but it is alleged by the employees that legal clearances have been delayed deliberately and projected as a sick unit.
M. Venkaiah Naidu’s Role
The RINL is not just a company to the people of the state, but it is an emotion for them. Vizag Steel Plant was brought to Vishakapatnam with many bloody protests in the mid 1960s.
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Since, there was no steel plant in the whole south India, many people protested and around 32 people were killed in the police firing across the then combined state in 1966.
Vice-president of India M. Venkaiah Naidu, who was then a student of Andhra University in Visakhapatnam, played a pivotal role in the agitation as an activist of the BJP’s front organization Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad ( ABVP). Unfortunately, It is a different story now even the Vice President is unable to revert the approval of the NDA government.
The employees and the union leaders are accusing the NDA government of deliberately branding the RINL as a loss-making unit. They claim that it is branded in this way to put it up for sale to private players.
Conspiracy of the Government?
The leaders expressed that outstanding bank dues as of now of RINL stands at Rs 22,000 crore, of which Rs 12,000 crore is raised to execute its expansion plans. If the government really wants to save the plant from privatization then it can convert the dues into equity and save the plant.
It is a clear conspiracy of the government to privatize RINL to private entities. The RINL’s net worth is shown as Rs 1,135 crore and is put up for sale for around Rs 30,000 crore. The lands of RINL alone cost nothing less than Rs 1.1 lakh crore. Its lands, machinery, township and reservoirs all together is worth more than Rs 2 lakh crore.
Shutdown of Hindustan Zinc Ltd.
They are also talking about the plight of Hindustan Zinc Ltd (HZL)’s smelter unit, located in the vicinity of the steel plant. They alleged that the HZL was divested to a private company two decades ago, which has left a bitter taste for the locals.
The unit remained shut without any adequate compensation paid by the company to those thrown out of employment. The management entrusted with the PSU plant is accused of diverting 360 acres of land acquired for it from farmers for real estate business.
The local BJP leaders who boast about the development of the country are not trying to help the people when they are in need in this matter.
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