Visakhapatnam: Union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman's statement in the Parliament that RINL-Visakhapatnam Steel Plant (VSP) will be sold out with 100 per cent disinvestment has added fuel to the protest against the privatization of the plant.

Vizag steel plant workers, traders, and members of some political parties under the aegis of the Visakha Ukku Parirakshana Porata Committee blocked the National Highway at Kurmannapalem junction from morning till afternoon on 9 March. Traffic came to a standstill and movement of polling staff for Wednesday's election was disrupted.

The agitating workers raised slogans against the Centre and the state government and burned copies of Ms. Sitaraman's statement at Kurmannapalem junction. The Vizag police diverted traffic coming from Scindia and old Gajuwaka via Lankelapalem and NAD junction.

Nearly 80 vehicles carrying polling staff, including presiding officers and APOs, and election material to the Gajuwaka polling stations were held up for some time due to the roadblock. They were later diverted to alternate routes. Motorists had a harrowing experience as their vehicles were stranded for more than 16 hours in the traffic jam that ran several km in both directions of the national highway.

The protestors warned that they would intensify their protest if the Union government did not withdraw its decision to privatize the plant. Trade union leaders urged the Chief Minister to pass a resolution against the privatization of VSP and lead an all-party delegation to the Centre. They also demanded that MPs resign from their posts.

Meanwhile, tension prevailed at the Visakhapatnam Steel Plant as thousands of workers and trade union representatives picketed the administrative office building on Tuesday morning. CISF personnel and police arrived in large numbers to prevent the situation from getting out of control. The protestors gheraoed the RINL director (finance) before the CISF escorted him out safely.

The plant employees, displaced persons and their family members, and trade union representatives who have been organizing relay hunger strikes and protests for the past few weeks have intensified their stir since 8 March evening after Ms. Sitharaman's statement in the Parliament.

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