Hyderabad: Thousands of people participated in the maha dharna at Andhra Pradesh’s Vijayawada city on Monday opposing the central government’s plans to privatise Rashtriya Ispat Nigam Ltd (RINL), the corporate entity of the Vizag Steel Plant.
Trade unions have been organising massive movements across Andhra Pradesh, mobilising people the Bharatiya Janata Party –led Central government going ahead with its privatisation spree of public sector undertakings across sectors.
“Andhra people will not allow privatisation of Vizag steel Plant which was established after a massive people’s movement. The BJP government is trying to sell the plant while claiming that it is running in losses. The crisis in the steel industry and COVID-19 pandemic have resulted in its losses but had the Central government allotted captive iron ore mines located in Prakasam district, the plant would have been making profits. It was the government’s deliberate attempt to privatise the plant against the interests of workers and the people of Andhra Pradesh,” said V Sobanadishwara Rao, a former CPI(M) member of Parliament , while addressing the gathering in Vijayawada, adding the state is going to witness bigger movements against privatisation of PSUs.
On February 6, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy requested Prime Minister Narendra Modi to reconsider disinvestment plans in RINL.
In a letter to the PM, Reddy suggested the Central government should instead the plant.
“The plant performed well between 2002 and 2015, earning profits with positive net worth. The company has around 19,700 acres of land currently. The valuation of these lands itself would exceed Rs 1 lakh crore due to location of the plant in a metropolitan area and rapidly expanding urban sprawl. However, owing to unfavourable steel cycles globally, the company started making losses since 2014–15 and found it difficult to service its debt. One of the major structural issues for its high cost of production is absence of captive mines, thereby affecting profitability,” the CM wrote in his letter.
Meanwhile, there have been series of protests in Visakhapatnam and Andhra Pradesh after reports emerged that the Union Cabinet had recently approved the privatisation of RINL in which the Central government owns a 100% stake.
RINL incurred net losses worth Rs 1,321 crore in 2017-18 and a net profit of Rs 96 crore in the 2018-19.
Trade unions and Left parties are planning more state-wide protests against the privatisation, Communist Party of India (Marxist) Anantapur secretary V Ram Bhupal said, adding that all political parties are set to launch a joint protest against RINL’s privatisation.
“These protests against privatisation of the steel plant will set a model against the BJP government’s plants to privatise PSUs,” said Jyesta Ayodhya Ramu, president of the plant’s recognised workers’ union.
According to trade unions, during the Visakha Ukku – Andhrula Hakku (Vizag Steel is the right of the people) movement in united Andhra Pradesh about 50 years ago, 32 people committed suicide and 70 legislators, including MPs and MLAs, resigned from their posts demanding the setting up of the plant in Visakhapatnam.
The steel plant has a capacity of 7.3 million tonnes per annum with two subsidiaries – The Orissa Minerals Development Company Ltd and The Bisra Stone Lime Company Ltd – and it runs RINMOIL Ferro Alloys Pvt Ltd, an equal joint venture with Manganese Ore (India) Limited Company and RINL Powergrid TLT Pvt Ltd, also an equal joint venture with Power Grid Corporation of India Ltd.
Last week, former minister and Telugu Desam Party MLA from Visakhapatnam, Ganta Srinivasa Rao, submitted his resignation in protest against the privatisation of the plant. He said he would launch a non- political joint action committee against the Central governments’ plans to privatise the plant.
“The people are against privatisation of PSUs whether they are loss-making or profit-making. The BJP government will face the ire of common people against privatisation,” said Sobanadishwara Rao.