Industrialist Rita Singh released after 24-hours by agitating Odisha plant workers
Chairman-cum-managing director of Mesco Steel, 49-year-old Rita Singh, was rescued on Wednesday afternoon from 24-hour-long confinement by hundreds of her Odisha plant workers, who were demanding their pending salaries and bonus.
Rita Singh was forced to stay inside the company guesthouse in Kalinga Nagar industrial complex of Jajpur district by the agitating workers of Maithan Ispat since 3 pm yesterday and could come out only after the district administration and the local police intervened on Wednesday afternoon.
Protesting workers claim they had not been paid for several months and the management was unresponsive to their plight.
“We have been robbed off by the management for last several months,” said Bijay Dalei, a worker at Maithan Ispat.
One of the steel plant workers also attempted to self-immolate on Wednesday morning but was stopped by the police in time.
Rita Singh run Mesco Steel had bought the ailing Maithan Ispat-- the 0.2 million tonne steel plant at Kalinga Nagar—in 2015, but the plant has been shut since March this year due to a shortage of iron ore.
After her release, Rita Singh said the times were tough for the steel industry and she was looking for finance for the plant.
“It was last agreed that workers will be paid Rs 55 lakh against dues but the payment was delayed and now workers are demanding full and final payment. “So let them come with a feasible suggestion,” she said and added, “I have worked for 32 years and I hope that at least entrepreneurs are given respect.”
Biju Janata Dal MLA from Sukinda, Pritiranjan Ghadai, who led the workers’ protest, said talks had failed and agitation will continue, but added that allegations of workers detaining Rita Singh forcefully were false.
President of Utkal Chamber of Commerce & Industry, Ramesh Mohapatra said Odisha govt should hold discussions with the workers to “ensure safety” of industrialists and the workers should also get their pending dues.
Kalinga Nagar industrial complex--the largest in Odisha-- is about 100 km from Bhubaneswar and houses Tatas, Jindals, VISA steel and Mesco group. Centre declared it as a National Investment and Manufacturing Zone in June this year amidst hope that it could produce 100 million tonnes of steel per annum, one-third of the country’s total target of 300 MTPA of Steel.
However, the lack of raw materials have led to the closure of a number of steel companies in the complex this year.
“Most steel companies in Kalinga Nagar area are facing closure due to non-availability of adequate raw materials at an affordable price. If the state government does not pay heed to our appeal, all the steel plants will be forced to shut down,” said PL Kandoi, president of All Odisha Steel Federation.
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