Make discussions about steel mills public, says Porata Committee

The Visakha Ukku Parirakshana Porata Committee has called for the talks between the Minister of Steel, Chairman and CEO of Visakhapatnam Steel Plant (VSP) and 45 officials from the Department of Investment and Public Asset Management (DIPAM) in Delhi to be published.

In an address to the media here on Friday, the chairmen of the committee called for the center to revoke its decision to privatize the VSP, otherwise a strike would take place on June 29th to expose the center’s “dictatorial policies”. They recalled that the Cabinet Committee on Economics (CCEA) announced its decision to strategically sell the VSP on January 29 this year. Consultants have been appointed to expedite the sale of the facility, they said.

The people of Andhra Pradesh have supported the agitation against the privatization of VSP as well as against the sale of public assets to corporations, they said. With the exception of the BJP, all other political parties in Andhra Pradesh took part directly in the agitation against the privatization of the plant. MEPs have spoken out against the privatization of VSP both inside and outside parliament, they added.

The committee chairs said VSP workers, union officials and members of popular organizations have been staging staggered hunger strikes in the city for the past 133 days at the steel mill gate at Kurmannapalem and for the past 80 days near the Gandhi statue across from the GVMC office . Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy wrote to the center twice to oppose the privatization move, and on May 20, the assembly passed a unanimous resolution against the BJP government’s decision and sent it to the center. At the first meeting of the GVMC Council, a unanimous resolution against the privatization of VSP was also adopted and transmitted to the Union and the state governments, it said.

Committee chairs recalled that the VSP had delivered 10,000 tons of liquid medical oxygen to Maharashtra when the pandemic wreaked havoc in that state. It provides employment for a lakh employee, either directly or indirectly.

The committee chairmen noted that despite the death of around 150 permanent and contract workers due to the pandemic, VSP employees contributed to production. For the past four years, steel workers have been donating blood under the banner of “Blood for Mines” on International Blood Donation Day every year to demand the allocation of captive mines to the VSP. This year the camp had the motto “Save Steel Plant”. Rather than considering all of these factors, the center is interested in privatizing VSP and will do whatever it can, they said.

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