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Will Privatization of Visakhapatnam Steel Plant Come to a Halt? Union Minister’s Visit Raises New Hope

Will Privatization of Visakhapatnam Steel Plant Come to a Halt? Union Minister's Visit Raises New Hope

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The continuous struggle of over three years by the workers and supporters of “Visakha Ukku Andhraula Hakku” seems to have some good news. There is speculation that the central government is going to withdraw the decision to privatise Visakhapatnam Steel Plant. With the visit of Union Minister of Steel, H.D. Kumaraswamy to Visakhapatnam today and tomorrow, hopes have been fanned that the required working capital for full-scale production and the state BJP’s proposal for the merger of the plant with SAIL could be the main menu of discussion.

The visit of the minister is expected to address many such burning questions. Kumaraswamy, who will be staying at the Steel Plant, will meet senior officials and labour unions on Thursday. Andhra Pradesh MPs have been demanding the merger of this loss-making steel plant with SAIL as it has no working capital for optimal production. This visit may be in response to a recent request from state BJP MPs to the minister.

Reduced Production Due to Lack of Funds for Maintenance

The decision of the Central government to privatise the Visakhapatnam Steel Plant three years ago in the name of disinvestment evoked widespread concern. Employees have been protesting ever since. Due to insufficient funds for its maintenance, this plant has not been able to function at full capacity over the last three years and is currently working at 60 per cent capacity. If there is no adequate working capital, ₹20,000-crore-worth of machinery has turned unusable. Blast furnace-3 was shut down in the year 2022; it compromises a loss of production of two and a half million tonnes. Not even the sale of Raebareli Forges Wheel Plant of Vizag steel for ₹2,000 crore did to pay off help the mounting dues. Not even priceless 25 acres of land belonging to the plant in Visakhapatnam come up for sale, but a court stay came in the way. There have been recent proposals selling steel stock points in Chennai and Hyderabad, among others, besides office buildings in several cities, for ₹500 crore. It now remains to be seen what the Modi 3.0 government decides with its present political mood.

New Hopes for Vizag Steel

New hopes are blossoming again over the future of the Visakhapatnam Steel Plant. After well over three years of employee protests, irregular salaries, and dire necessities of selling assets for maintenance, the Union Steel Minister  Kumaraswamy is visiting this evening. He will meet senior officials and labor leaders tomorrow. Much will be expected of him in terms of what he has to say and how he will react to merging the plant with SAIL. This could be the visit that has to turn around the fortunes of the beleaguered steel plant and its committed workers.

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