West Bengal asks India’s steel minister to desist from selling SAIL’s Bengal units

West Bengal finance, planning and programme monitoring minister Amit Mitra has alleged that Steel Authority of India Ltd’s (SAIL) Durgapur plant and the Burnpur IISCO steel unit are being stripped of assets like iron ore mines, as part of a plan by the Union steel ministry to eventually sell them off.

“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,” Mitra wrote in a letter to Union steel minister Dharmemdra Pradhan.

Pradhan wrote to Mitra on the very next day saying the latter’s fears were unfounded and assured him that the current practice of supplying the raw material to the two units would continue (plants located in West Bengal get iron ore from SAIL’s own mines located in other states) and that “there was no plan to terminate or reduce the employee strength of the company.”

Last Friday, Mitra wrote to Pradhan again asking why the Union steel minister chose not to address the “major question of dismantling of the RMD (Raw Materials Division).” Mitra wrote, “I once again urge you to stop the dismantling of RMD and keep its headquarters in Kolkata. Your confirmation that RMD will not be dismantled and its headquarters will remain in Kolkata will reassure many anxious workers and their families in the midst of the pandemic.”

SAIL’s raw material division runs 15 mines including iron ore mines, flux mines and coal mines. The eight iron ore mines under the division are spread across Orissa and Jharkhand. The two flux mines are in Jharkhand and Madhya Pradesh each and the remaining (coking) coal mines are in the ECL (Eastern Coalfields Ltd.) spread across Jharkhand and West Bengal.

Mitra also said that since the present dispensation came into power in Delhi, there has been “an ominous pattern of removing headquarters of PSUs from Kolkata which has been here for half a century and even a century”. He cited the shifting of the headquarters of Hindustan Steel Works Construction (HSCL), subsidiary offices of Coal India, shifting of State Bank of India’s central accounts hub and the headquarters of UBI.

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