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STEEL PLANT- PLANTED OVER THE SEEDS OF SACRIFICES

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STEEL PLANT- PLANTED OVER THE SEEDS OF SACRIFICES

vizag steel palnt away from PSU

STEEL PLANT- PLANTED OVER THE SEEDS OF SACRIFICES
February 20
15:36 2021

“Nothing terrifies the audacious ruling political class more than the possibility of an awakening Democracy getting ready to revolt” The way the polity of Andhra Pradesh is reacting to the decision of the BJP led central government to sell the Rashtriya Ispat Nigam Limited-Visakhapatnam Steel Plant (RINL-VSP), not only instill apprehensions but also surprising that it has resigned to the inevitability and that it is helpless to save the plant, the Icon of Andhra Pride. The feeble reactions and the way they are running from pillar to post in the power corridors of New Delhi with folded hands reflect that they would remain silent, even if the country is put on sale.

With the Narendra Modi government determined to hurtle through with its intentions to disinvest in most of the 439 Central public sector undertakings (PSUs), there appears, notwithstanding the apprehensions and protests in Andhra Pradesh, to be very little chance Steel Plant (RINL-VSP), escaping the disinvestment/privatization bullet.The suggestions given by the polity including those by YS Jagan led AP government from allocation of mines in Odisha, converting bank debt into equity, and selling steel plant’s surplus land, etc., reflect that they seemed resigned to the fate and spooked to the determination of the Central government, hence they would like the center to privatize the plant in gradual phase rather than in one go.                                                                                                                                                                                                     

It made huge profits these past decades, and continues to provide livelihood for thousands of families directly or indirectly. It being in losses and debt recently is a misleading justification for privatisation because the lack of captive mines leads to high raw material costs, and VSP’s debt burden leading to high interest payments is the result of the Centre not providing funds for VSP’s expansion. Though presently going through a bad patch, VSP had declared a good performance between 2002 and 2015 earning profits with a positive net worth. The plant also experienced a turnaround in 2002 after being reported to the Board for Industrial and Financial Restructuring as a sick company. The company has around 19,700 acres of land at present, with estimates indicating that the value of these lands could exceed Rs.1 lakh crore due to the location of the plant in a rapidly expanding urban sprawl. The feeble actions from the Andhra political class seemed to be more to the expediency to respond to the growing demand from the people to save the steel plant than the committed resolve to that effect and an to find a middle path manifesting murder without bloodshed.

Why do the Telugu backbones bend before the Central government while dealing with it on various state’s issues?

The achievement of the steel plant was a testimony to the will of the Telugu people and that it was an icon of Telugu achievement.It was in April 1970 that the then Prime Minister of India announced the government’s decision to establish a steel plant at Visakhapatnam, ending the decade-long “Visakha Ukku-Andhrula Hakku” public agitation in undivided Andhra Pradesh.                                                                                                                                                                                                                     It was established on the seeds of sacrifices of 32 people. The plant is made of their blood whose memories remain burning as the flames of furnace of the steel plant, manifesting a unique history written on the sacrifices. Led by freedom fighters, thousands of students, workers and commoners started an agitation that shook the entire state. In all, 32 persons sacrificed their lives, 64 villages were evacuated and 22,000 acres of land was acquired to build this gigantic steel plant, when in 1970, Indira Gandhi finally gave in and announced the establishment of a steel plant at Vishakapatnam, making India’s first coastal steel plant. At the outset, the center that is determined auction the Telugu pride must understand something about Telugu identity. The Indianness of Telugu people is mediated through their Telugu identity and pride in all things Telugu. It is the kind of identity that requires that its unique cultural space and agency be respected, as it respects the space of others. It is also characterized by a readiness to defy the establishment. This is exactly what the TDP founder N.T. Rama Rao later gave voice to — “Telugu Athma Gouravam”.

It is this history of struggle — sacrificing land, villages, and even lives — that makes the privatization of Vizag Steel an emotional issue for the Telugus. Therefore, it’s surprising that no one seemed to be finding a voice to oppose  Center’s audacious move. What happened to that ‘Telugu Athma Gourvaam? Why is it being so helplessly placed before the feet of the central government? Why does Andhra’s civic society, instead of exploding like a volcano, is still reacting with tepid intensity? Expecting a company to run profitably without a level-playing field is like asking someone to run after tying up their legs. Steel is one of the eight core industries of India. It is critical that Vizag Steel Plant, on its way to being India’s largest single-location, coastal steel producer, remains in the hands of the people. It’s time that the Telugus realized the danger to their Athma Gouravam and told the Central government that they can’t remain silent spectators to its whims and fancies. It’s time the Telugus reenacted the 1966 Steel Plant movement…..regardless of the feeble polity that has no backbone to stand against the arrogant center.

                                                                                                                                                                                                 It’s time the Andhrites realized that  “Nothing terrifies the audacious ruling political class  both at the center and the state more than the possibility of an awakening Democracy getting ready to revol

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