Visakhapatnam: The Human Rights Forum (HRF) has strongly opposed the recent in-principle approval by the Cabinet Committee of Economic Affairs for 100 per cent disinvestment of the Rashtriya Ispat Nigam Limited (RINL), the corporate entity of Visakhapatnam Steel Plant (VSP).

The HRF led by K. Sudha (HRF AP general secretary) and V.S. Krishna (HRF AP and TS coordination committee member) condemned this naked attempt to hand over the VSP - lock stock and barrel - to corporate entities on a platter. The HRF demanded that the decision to privatize VSP be immediately rescinded and the plant be allocated captive mines.

VSP was nation's first shore-based integrated steel plant that came into being following a sustained campaign by the people of the state. The agitation resulted in the death of 32 people. Over the decades, various governments have followed policies that led to a huge cost of production burden on the plant. The VSP is the only steel PSU that does not possess captive iron ore mines and is therefore saddled with massive input costs.

If it held captive mines, it would have cost the plant between Rs 500 to Rs 1,000 to mine and process a tonne of ore. In their absence, it is now costing the VSP between Rs 5,000 to Rs 7,000 for the same. Also, fund allocation by the Centre has been abysmal. The VSP was literally forced to bleed. It has had a direct bearing on its profitability and the blame for the plant's losses lies squarely with the government, they added.

Despite many hurdles by successive governments, the plant has achieved a turnaround posting good performances over the years, and has also recently embarked on a modernisation and capacity expansion. The VSP has nearly 20,000 acres of land and the total valuation of the plant's assets is over Rs 2 lakh crore. To put this precious public asset on the block is totally objectionable. No amount of free-market logic harping on efficiency and competitiveness can justify this horrendous move.


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