Kolkata, June 16 : West Bengal Finance Minister Amit Mitra has asked Union Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister Dharmendra Pradhan not to dismantle the Raw Materials Division (RMD) of SAIL – headquartered in Kolkata – because that will not only create unemployment during lockdown but also cut-off the supply line of iron ore to Durgapur and Burnpur Integrated Steel Plants in West Bengal. The finance minister also apprehended that this is a ploy of the BJP after its defeat in the recent Assembly election.
In a two-page letter written to Pradhan, Mitra said, “I am shocked to learn from the media that the Raw Materials Division (RMD) of SAIL, headquartered in Kolkata, is being dismantled. This will result in the job loss of scores of contractual employees in the midst of this COVID pandemic, literally putting them in harm’s way. And over hundred permanent employees working in RMD, Kolkata will face total destabilization of their families, their spouses and their children, with imminent transfer, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
“It is even more alarming that with the dismantling of RMD, the iconic Durgapur and Burnpur Integrated Steel Plants in West Bengal would be left with no captive mines, nor would they get supplies of iron ore since the RMD vertical would have been dismantled. Apparently, the 15 Iron Ore mines, Flux Mines and Collieries run by Raw Materials Division of SAIL would now be entirely allocated to Rourkela and Bokaro Steel Plants, where Odisha mines will be allocated to Rourkela and Jharkhand mines will be allocated to Bokaro,” he added.
Criticising the move, Amit Mitra alleged that this dismantling would make both the plants that generate 14,400 jobs uncompetitive and thus sick. “You are very well aware that the raw material prices like that of ‘fines’ is Rs 9,500/- a tonne in the open market, while RMD was supplying to Durgapur and Burnpur at a price of Rs 650/- a tonne. Therefore, by throwing Durgapur and Burnpur into the open market, these plants would be rendered uncompetitive. And, over time, these plants would become cost inefficient, unprofitable and unviable,” Mitra wrote.
“It appears to me that there is a rather devious intent of undermining these two iconic steel plants in Bengal. By dismantling the Raw Materials Division of SAIL headquartered in Kolkata and on top of that, not providing any captive mines to Durgapur and Burnpur, these two massive steel plants, employing 14,400 workers, would soon be in dire straits. I may point out that these plants today are profitable entities having yielded a profit of Rs 1,486 crores,” he added.
Alleging that this is a BJP ploy after its defeat in the election in West Bengal, Mitra wrote, “I am even more disturbed to hear that when the workers’ unions of SAIL met with the top management in Delhi in Ispat Bhavan, they were informally told that the newly appointed chairperson, the first woman chairperson of SAIL, would not be able to do anything about the dismantling of RMD and non-allocation of mines to Durgapur and Burnpur, because the Hon’ble Steel Minister himself is behind this unfortunate strategic decision.”
“I am deeply apprehensive that these two massive plants in Bengal would either be asset stripped or be sold off in the name of disinvestment, having crippled them through the current policy shift. Incidentally, this move of dismantling RMD headquartered in Kolkata and the resultant negative implications on Durgapur and Burnpur follows in the heels of BJP’s recent electoral loss in Bengal,” he added.
“Since several senior officers of your Ministry sit on the Board of SAIL and have powerful influence on the Board’s decisions (due to Central Government owning majority share in SAIL) I sincerely urge you to instruct your officers on the Board to stop SAIL from dismantling RMD and thereby saving the two great iconic and profitable institutions of the Maharatna PSU,” he concluded.