BUSINESS

Centre initiates steel R&D mission to attract talent

WILL STEEL GLITTER?: Mano Ranjan, Secretary, Union Ministry of Steel (left), and B. Muthuraman, Managing Director, Tata Steel at the 43rd National Metallurgists' Day inaugural session at IIT Madras, on Monday . — Photo: Shaju John

WILL STEEL GLITTER?: Mano Ranjan, Secretary, Union Ministry of Steel (left), and B. Muthuraman, Managing Director, Tata Steel at the 43rd National Metallurgists' Day inaugural session at IIT Madras, on Monday . — Photo: Shaju John  

Special Correspondent

CHENNAI: The Union government will start a steel R and D mission aimed at "attracting the best minds in India and abroad" for networking to promote research in the sector, according the Union Steel Secretary, Mano Ranjan.

"We have not set any limit to the corpus" for the mission, which will be managed by technologists and scientists, he said, adding that initially perhaps Rs. 50 crore would do. The government's objective was to make India figure among leading generators of iron and steel technology within a decade.

In his address to the 43rd National Metallurgists' Day function and 59th annual technical meeting of the Indian Institute of Metals (IIM) on Monday and subsequent interaction with the media, Dr. Mano Ranjan said that even while using the existing research facilities, the mission would "pioneer" new projects and market the technologies that they developed.

New technology

He said the present outlay on R and D by the steel industry was only 0.26 per cent of its turnover, compared to the national industry average of 0.8 per cent and developed countries' performance of 2.5 per cent.

Regarding the problem of attracting talent faced by the manufacturing sector, especially metallurgy, highlighted by industry leaders at the meeting, the Secretary said if service sectors like information technology paid high salaries, then manufacturing industry should "learn to pay more".

Dr. Mano Ranjan said the question of export of ores and minerals was even now under discussion and the matter was "not closed". "All aspects are being taken into account", he said.

B.Muthuraman, Managing Director, Tata Steel, and Vice-President of the IIM, said there were other issues besides salary in attracting talent. "Our company pays new entrants more than that paid by the biggest IT companies. There are other issues, like you cannot have blast furnace in an air-conditioned environment".

This industry was the only one, which had as low a tariff protection as five per cent.

Sajjan Jindal, of JSW Steel, cited the example of the leather industry, which had developed over decades thanks to a ban on export of raw hides and skins and semi-finished leathers to encourage domestic value addition.

In his address at the function, Baldev Raj, President of the IIM and Director of the Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research (IGCAR), highlighted the role that awaited metallurgists in ensuring the country's energy security by developing new materials.

The Lifetime Achievement Award of the Steel Ministry was presented on the occasion to P. L. Agarwal, former Chairman of SAIL, and the National Metallurgist Award to Brahma Nand Singh, CEO, Jindal Vijayanagar Steel.

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