Intensifying the ongoing agitation against the strategic sale of the Visakhapatnam Steel Plant (VSP), its employees under the aegis of the Visakha Ukku Parirakshana Porata Committee (VUPPC) will go on a day-long mass boycott of work on November 11 (Friday), when Prime Minister Narendra Modi will arrive in the city.
VUPPC chairman Ch. Adinarayana told the media on November 10 (Thursday) that the VSP workers working in three shifts would not attend to their duties. “This is the only way we can step up our agitation that has completed 650 days and bring the issue to the notice of the Prime Minister. The Centre is slowly killing the steel plant by bringing down the production to 50%. of its capacity. Chief Minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy must take up the issue with Mr. Modi,” he said.
The Andhra Pradesh Assembly and the GVMC Council have passed resolutions against the privatisation of the VSP. “It is a State issue now and it should be addressed by the Chief Minister,” he said.
About 13,000 workers will not attend to their duties on November 11 (Friday). Besides, the workers and their family members will attend the hunger strike camp at Kurmannapalem Junction, said Mantri Rajasekhar, another chairman of the VUPPC.
The workers started sporting black badges from November 10 (Thursday) and the meeting at Kurmannapalem will continue till Saturday, said Varasala Srinivas of the VUPPC.
Ch. Narasinga Rao, another chairman of the VUPPC, pointed out that due to the reduction in production, the VSP that achieved a turnover of more than ₹28,000 crore and had generated a profit of ₹9,000 crore in the last financial year, has gone into losses in the last six months.
“The production must be restored to 100% and the loans should be converted into equity. The Centre should sanction the captive mines to VSP. Earlier, the Centre during the regime of Atal Behari Vajpayee and P.V. Narasimha Rao had restructured the capital on two occasions and the VSP had done well,” he said.
The Centre had invested around ₹5,000 crore and the VSP had invested over ₹50,000 crore to scale the production of the plant to 7.3 million tonnes. “We are still paying hefty interests. That is why we are demanding a capital restructuring,” said Mr. Adinaryana.
Payment of hefty interest on loans and high cost of raw material are eating into VSP’s profits. The plant is paying over ₹6,000 crore for iron ore and coal per annum, for not having captive mines, said Mr. Narasinga Rao.
The VUPPC members also took exception to BJP MP G.V.L. Narasimha Rao’s statement that Mr. Modi would not address the VSP privatisation issue. “If the PM is not addressing the burning issues then why is he coming?” they questioned.
Y. Masthanappa and Dommiti Apparao of the VUPPC also spoke on the occasion.