Bhilai Steel Plant (BSP)’s first unit was commissioned on February, 1959 and after four decades BSP is Steel Authority of India’s (SAIL) most prolific revenue generator. During this year’s April-September period, when there is a slump in steel sector, BSP posted a profit of 1269 crore, i.e. 53 % of SAIL’s half yearly profit. In an interview to The Hindu, Bhilai Steel Plant’s CEO, S Chandrasekaran discussed the challenges and the prospects of BSP.

Q: BSP planned an elaborate modernization and expansion (M & E) Plan – what is it?

SC: SAIL is in the process of modernizing its production units, raw material resources and other facilities to maintain its dominant position in the steel market. As an integral part of SAIL’s growth plan, projects are being executed for expansion and modernization, after which Bhilai’s capacity would be enhanced to 7.5 million tonnes (mt) of Hot Metal and 7 mt of crude steel from the present production level of 5 mt Hot Metal and 4.5 mt of crude. The basic idea of M & E is to consolidate the number one spot for BSP by adopting energy efficient eco friendly technology.

Q: What would be the projected budget for this?

SC: It is around Rs. 19000 crores for all the projects going on in Bhilai

Q: Presumably, achieving objectives will depend to an extent on accessing iron ore from fresh mines. While new mines been allotted in Kawardha and Raoghat is on pipeline, what about the existing mines in Dalli Rajhara. What exactly is the life of the mines?

SC: The balance reserve in Dalli Rajhara is about 80 mt as on date. But what is significant is as we go deep inside (the mine) the quality of ore starts deteriorating and the silica percentage increases. So, 80 mt of ore will not sustain us as many years as it used to when it was a fresh mine.

Q: Extraction of iron ore from Raoghat – known for having very good quality ore – is an important component of modernization. What is the present budget for a) constructing the railroad from Rajhara to Raoghat and b) extraction of ore from the mines?

SC: It is around Rs. 5000 crores, out of which about Rs 800 crores is for the railroad between Rajahara and Raoghat and about Rs 4200 crores is for development of mines and associated facilities e.g. crushing, screening and loading etc. at Raoghat. (The amount is outside the modernization budget)

Q: BSP is funding the barracks of the paramilitaries, as Raoghat is deep inside the Maoist controlled areas. Would you like to tell us about the size of the funding?

SC: Raoghat is very important for us and the railroad between Rajahara and Raoghat, being constructed by Indian Railways, has to come up fast. This would also result in the prosperity for the entire region and eventually would benefit the local residents. Therefore, we are extending support to help early execution so that SAIL-BSP and the people living in the nearby area are benefited.

Q: A 95 km long railroad followed by substantial mining will witness huge displacement. What is the compensation & rehabilitation policy of BSP (or SAIL)?

SC: Displacement is likely to happen in the process of the construction of the railroad between Rajahara and Raoghat being constructed by Indian Railways. As such, the onus is on Indian Railways to provide the compensation, however SAIL-BSP would extend the support in education /training of the deserving residents to make them employable. Over and above this, extensive CSR activity e.g. Health camps, women empowerment, education etc. would be carried out on regular basis to improve their quality of life.

Q: Bhilai has substantially reduced its permanent work force over years. Is it a policy that retired positions will not be filled?

SC: Policy to recruit ‘one in place of another’ has been annulled long back. Now recruitment takes place in three areas. For new plants and to fill up a percentage of the posts created due to retirement of employees. Besides, the skilled positions can not remain vacant indefinitely.

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