With soaring steel prices a key villain of rising inflation affecting millions of Indians, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh urged steelmakers to give up greed and think of the consumer — and the nation. On Tuesday, Singh travelled on the heartland of steel, to Jamshedpur. The day marked the end of yearlong celebrations to commemorate the centenary year of the Tata Steel plant in Jamshedpur.
Speaking before local residents, Singh celebrated the enterprise of Tata Steel and its successive leaders, but also used the occasion to criticise the ways of the business in general.
“I would humbly advise our steel industry to take a long term view and not fall prey to the temptation of seeking windfall gains from market manipulation in a period of excess demand,” he said.
Tata Steel's Managing Director B Muthuraman responded saying his company "will hold the prices of its steel products at current levels for the next 2-3 months."
The Prime Minister’s appeal come at a time when the government appears increasingly helpless in the face of sustained spike in inflation, which has been largely fuled by rising prices of food and commodities, especially steel and iron.
Tata Steel and Steel Authority of India Limited (SAIL) are under pressure to hold down steel prices, which have a cascading effect on prices. Both companies use iron ore and coal – the two main raw materials for steel – from their own mines, rather than depending on costly imports, and experts say they can help contain prices.
Separately in New Delhi, Finance Minister P Chidambaram accused steel producers of acting like a cartel and Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia said holding the price line would be in the interest of the steel industry itself.
Muthuraman had earlier in the day sought help for the steel industry from the government. “We are living in unprecedented times for the global steel industry. Prices have surged to unprecedented heights,” he said, adding that both SAIL and Tata Steel were “exercising self-restraint”.