Workers block NH-16, call for bandh to protest privatisation of Vizag Steel
- Ignoring the continuous protests by the workers of the plant, the Centre has begun the exercise of disinvestment in the steel plant.
With the Centre beginning the exercise of privatising the Rashtriya Ispat Nigam Limited (RINL), better known as Visakhapatnam Steel Plant, workers and political parties have stepped up their three week-long agitation against the proposed privatisation.
On Friday, thousands of steel plant workers held a “Rasta Roko” in the port city by blocking the national highway (NH-16) and demanding that the Centre drop the move to privatise the steel plant.
Raising slogans “Visakha Ukku-Andhrula Hakku” (Visakha Steel is the right of Andhra people), the workers squatted on the highway at Kurmannapalem junction that leads to the steel plant’s main entrance.
The vehicular traffic came to a grinding halt on the national highway for more than three hours between 11 am and 2 pm. The police, who made heavy security arrangements to prevent any untoward incident, later dispersed the agitating workers.
“Similar protest demonstrations were held by various opposition parties in Srikakulam, Vizianagaram and Krishna districts to express solidarity with us,” said J Ayodhya Ramu, president of the Centre for Indian Trade Unions (CITU), the leading trade union in the Visakhapatnam Steel Plant.
The trade unions called for a Visakhapatnam shutdown on March 5 as part of intensifying the agitation against the steel plant privatisation. “We shall not give up our fight,” he said.
Ramu pointed out that the steel plant had achieved a turnover of ₹1600 crore in the last 25 days, even after the announcement made by the Centre on the privatisation of the steel plant. “We are confident of achieving an annual turnover of ₹20,000 crore. Why should the Centre kill this golden goose?” he asked.
Ignoring the continuous protests by the workers of the steel plant, the Centre has begun the exercise of disinvestment in the steel plant. “According to the information we received, the Centre has recently formed an inter-ministerial group comprising senior officials from steel, finance, industries and DIPAM (Department of Investment and Public Asset Management) to work out the modalities for disinvestment,” the trade union leader said.
The committee, which also includes chairman and director (finance) of the RINL, would make an assessment of the assets and liabilities of the company, including the value of the machinery and the land and submit the details to the Centre to prepare the bid document before inviting private bidders.
The outlawed Communist Party of India (Maoist) on Friday extended its wholehearted support to the agitating workers of Visakhapatnam Steel Plant against its privatisation.
In a statement released to the media, Kailasam, official spokesman of CPI (Maoist) Andhra-Odisha Border Special Zonal Committee, alleged that the Narendra Modi government was completely surrendering the nation’s sovereignty to the corporate forces led by Ambanis and Adanis.
He asked the steel plant workers to take up the struggle to fight against the undemocratic decision of the Modi government.