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)