Steel Minister Virbhadra Singh feels bringing iron ore under the Steel Ministry would improve its effectiveness. He spoke to Hindustan Times on a range of issues. Excerpts:
On rising prices of steel
Steel prices have come down recently. One of the reasons for high prices of steel has been that demand has been higher than supply. Steel is a totally deregulated sector, the government has no role in fixing prices. But it is the moral responsibility of the government to ensure prices of steel are low, especially those used by the common man such as steel rods for building houses.
We are keeping a close watch, and if we feel prices have risen abnormally, we would take appropriate steps.
On bringing the mines department under the steel ministry
Let me be honest: I feel mines, especially iron ore and mines of metals that go into the manufacturing of steel, should be brought under the ministry of steel... for effective functioning of the steel ministry. No formal proposal has been made. But there is no dispute with the mines minister, who is a great personal friend.
On export tax on iron ore
There should be optimum utilisation of national resources. It is better to export a finished product than a raw material. I feel tax on iron ore export is a step in the right direction.
On problems faced by steel multinationals in India
The brownfield projects (expansion of existing plants) in the private sector are proceeding as planned. Delays are happening in the greenfield (new) projects including those of Arcelor Mittal and Posco. In case of greenfield projects, the ball in the court of the state governments. The steel ministry is using its good offices to expedite matters, and hopes to see some positive results.
On production of steel
Production is going up and will continue to rise. But demand is also growing. We have to boost domestic production to ensure that there is no need for import to meet the rising demand.