The Centre’s in-principle clearance to the privatisation of the Rashtriya Ispat Nigam Limited (RINL), which runs Visakhapatnam Steel Plant, has triggered an uproar among several quarters. Demanding the Centre to roll back its call, thousands of Visakhapatnam Steel Plant employees launched a massive rally in the city on Friday morning. Raising slogans of “Save Steel Plant”, the protestors have launched a bike rally from Kurmannapalem to the GVMC office in the city.
The protest has found support from several political parties in the state. Speaking with a media person, Gajuwaka MLA Tippala Nagi Reddy, who was seen taking part in the protest, said, “We strongly oppose the decision to privatise the Visakhapatnam Steel Plant. If the Centre doesn’t roll back its decision, lakhs of people will take to the streets as a mark of protest.” Reminding the slogan of ‘Visakha Ukku Andhrula Hakku’, the MLA added, “32 people had sacrificed their lives during the agitations for the establishment of Visakhapatnam Steel Plant and there is no question of letting the privatisation happen. If needed, leaders of all parties shall join hands to protest against the move and save Visakhapatnam Steel Plant at any cost.”
On the other hand, Member of Parliament, Lok Sabha, Srikakulam, Ram Mohan Naidu wrote a letter to Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman raising concerns over the cabinet’s decision to privatise RINL. “Visakhapatnam Steel Plant came into existence only due to the revolutionary agitation of the people of Andhra Pradesh during which the state was united under the slogan ‘Visakha Ukku Andhrula Hakku’. Students, workers and common citizens lost their lives in the fight to have a steel plant in Vizag. 4 villages were evacuated and 22,000 acres of land was acquired to build this gigantic steel plant,” the TDP leader noted in the letter. Stating that his father, late Yerrannaidu, had resisted attempts to privatise the plant, Mr Naidu said he is also of the opinion that Visakhapatnam Steel Plant is a symbol of Telugu pride and that privatising it would be hurtful to Telugu people.
On 27 January, the Cabinet Committee of Economic Affairs (CCEA) gave in-principle approval for 100% strategic disinvestment of the Government of India shareholding in RINL along with management control by way of privatisation.