As Vizag Steel Plant agitation nears one year, employees confident of winning the battle

Visakhapatnam Steel Plant employees staging a protest in Visakhapatnam. File photo.

Visakhapatnam Steel Plant employees staging a protest in Visakhapatnam. File photo.

The agitation taken up by the leaders and members of all trade unions and employees of Visakhapatnam Steel Plant under the banner Visakha Ukku Parirakshana Porata Committee (VUPPC) against the 100% strategic sale of the public sector steel plant, is nearing one year, as they had taken it up on February 11, last year, as Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had announced it in the Budget-2021.

Though crowd at the camps have thinned down over the days, but their resolve appears to be grown stronger and they are determined to continue the agitation till the Union Government withdraws its decision, as it had done in the case of the Farmers Act.

We will not budge an inch and so far we have been successful in our agitation and have not allowed any committee to enter the plant and take up a survey or assessment, said Ch. Narasinga Rao, one of the chairmen’s of VUPPC and state president of CITU.

It is learnt that a team of transaction and bidding advisors had made three attempts in the last one year to enter the plant and take stock of the assessment, but failed on all the three counts, as the unions and employees had successfully stalled their entry.

VSP a different case

The agitation against the privatisation of VSP is different from the other 30 listed PSUs. All the PSU have some percentage ranging from 10 to 35 per cent already disinvested in the past, while the VSP is the only plant that has held on to its 100% Central Public Sector Unit tag, with not a single stake disinvested, and has successfully resisted all the earlier attempts, including the ones made during the Congress regime when Manmohan Singh was the Prime Minister.

Moreover, this plant is different from the rest, as it comes wrapped with a lot of emotions and sentiments. This plant had come up after 32 people laid down their lives in November 1967, in police firing across the State of then wholesome Andhra, including 11 in Visakhapatnam city alone. It cannot be privatised with a stroke of a pen, said CPI leader D. Raja.

The 1967, the agitation under the banner of ‘Visakha Ukku-Andhrula Hakku’ was a student movement and was led by the students of Andhra Medical College, Andhra University and AVN College. It had then become a national movement and we intend to scale it up to that level, till the Union Government takes back its decision, said Ch. Adinarayana, chairman of VUPPC and district president of AITUC.

The employees and members of VUPPC are hopeful that post elections in UP and in the other states, the Union Government will be forced to withdraw its decision. “The BJP-led Union Government had done a similar thing in the case of Dredging Corporation of India (DCI). The government had withdrawn the decision of privatisation of DCI, just before the 2019 General Election,” said Mr. Narasinga Rao.

Another strong point that the employees of the plant see is that all the political parties, except the BJP, and trade unions, including BMS, have come under one banner to protest the privatisation move.

In 1966, the then State Government had passed a resolution in the Assembly urging the Union Government to set up the plant and now again in 2021, the present State Government had again passed a resolution in the Assembly denouncing the privatisation.

All that we demand is to keep VSP out of privatisation and let it function as a PSU. And we also demand that a captive iron ore mine be leased out to the plant, said Mantri Rajsekhar, a chairmen of VUPCC.

VSP has already recorded a turnover of over ₹20,000 crores in the nine months passed, in this fiscal, and it is poised to grow. In such a scenario, there is no logic in giving it away to some private player. The Union Government should allow it function as a PSU and allot captive mines in one of the blocks in Bailadila Range, say member of Steel Executive Association (VSP).

Already a number of national leaders from various trade and farmers unions and left parties and social activists such as Medha Patkar, Tapan Sen, Amarjeet Kaur, D. Raja, Brinda Karat, Rajesh Tikait and Ashok Dhawale, have visited the agitation site and have pledged support, till the decision is taken back.

The next two months is crucial, as lot depends on the election outcome in UP and in a few other states, feel the members of VUPPC.

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Printable version | May 21, 2022 9:36:04 pm |