The Guardian March 8, 2000


India:
Unions condemn steel sell-off

The Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) has condemned the decision of 
the Vajpayee central government to initiate a process of "divestment" of 
three steel plants, part of the state-owned SAIL combine, viz, Alloy Steel 
Plant, Salem Steel Plant and Visvesaraya Iron & Steel (VISL).

Also to be flogged off are the power plants at Bokaro, Durgapur and 
Rourkela, the Oxygen Plant II of Bhilai Steel and the Fertiliser Plant at 
Rourkela.

The cabinet decision of February 15 clearly reveals that the Government has 
accepted in toto the recommendations of the foreign consultancy firm M/s 
Mckinsey which had been engaged to advise on "restructuring" of SAIL. Not 
surprisingly, the carefully chosen foreign consultant had recommended that 
the public sector steel giant be broken up and sold off.

CITU points out that "The decision to sell out ASP, SSP and VISL would 
practically end the public sector participation in alloy steel making and 
hand over the said important segment of the country's market to foreign 
players. These plants played important role in supplying the country's 
defence requirement even during the Kargil [Kashmir] conflict.

"The sell-out of captive power plants at Bokaro, Durgapur and Rourkela 
[which were] earlier built up to ensure a much needed un-interrupted power 
supply to the integrated and continuous steel making process and divesting 
of the oxygen plant at Bhilai  as per the design of the foreign 
consultant  are destined to severely handicap the remaining steel plants 
within the public sector SAIL and adversely affect their efficient and 
productive operation, much to the advantage of their competitors abroad."

CITU says the decision makes it clear the government is "hell bent to 
destroy the country's steel making capacity" to oblige the TNCs operating 
in this field.

The unions claim such a policy was already revealed in "the dumping-
friendly policy" of the BJP Government, which allows the indiscriminate 
dumping of foreign steel in India, while taking no action against the 
"unjust and aggressive prohibitive action against Indian steel in the name 
of anti-dumping by USA and European Union".

While appealing to the Government to reverse its decision, CITU calls upon 
the steel workers and all the trade unions in the steel industry, 
irrespective of affiliation, to resist such an anti-national decision of 
the government and to "block the implementation of these retrograde steps 
through united struggle both at plant level and on an all-India plane".

* * *
Ganashakti, Daily Newspaper of the CPI(M)

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