As PM Modi visits Vizag, why are RINL workers seething in anger?

Workers of the steel plant will boycott work on 12 November to protest the Modi government's decision to privatise the firm.

BySNV Sudhir

Published Nov 11, 2022 | 8:13 AM Updated Nov 11, 2022 | 8:41 AM

RINL workers

Even as BJP workers are upbeat, and the YSRCP government is making elaborate arrangements for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Andhra Pradesh, thousands of Vizag steel plant workers are seething in anger.

The approximately 10,000 workers of the steel plant have decided to boycott work on Friday, 11 November, to protest against Modi’s visit to Vizag.

Their demand: The Centre must roll back its decision to privatise the Navaratna steel maker RINL, the flagship company of the Vizag steel plant.

The matter has been simmering for a while and, on 9 November, the workers tried to take out a bike rally holding placards demanding Modi roll back the Centre’s decision on 100 percent divestment in the plant.

When the police denied permission for the rally, agitating workers tried to march from Kurmannapalem to the Greater Visakhapatnam Municipal Corporation office in the city. As they reached Gajuwaka, police stopped the rally and detained the workers as prohibitory orders were in place.

The workers raised slogans against the Centre and also against the police.

A skirmish took place as the workers tried to move forward by pushing the police barricades. Police had to use force to bring the situation under control.

600-day relay hunger strike

A relay hunger strike launched by the workers at RINL’s main gate at Kurnammapalem junction demanding the rollback of the Centre’s decision has been on for more than 600 days.

“What will be the fate of thousands of workers and their families who are dependent on Vizag steel plant if it is privatised?  Modi, in his public meeting in Vizag, should announce the rollback of the decision to privatise Vizag steel plant,” said Vizag Steel Plant  Parirakshana Porata Samithi committee chairman Manthri Rajasekhar.

Vizag Steel Plant Parirakshana Porata Samithi is the umbrella organisation of several trade unions and is spearheading the stir launched against the privatisation of the steel plant.

The Cabinet Committee of Economic Affairs (CCEA) in January last year gave in-principle approval for 100 percent strategic disinvestment of the central government’s shareholding in RINL, along with management control, by way of privatisation.

Demanding that the Centre roll back its call, thousands of RINL’s Visakhapatnam Steel Plant (VSP) employees have been protesting since then.

RINL posted profit

Incidentally, RINL, which the central government decided to privatise, has this year notched up a profit before tax after six financial years.

In the financial year (FY) 2021-22, RINL achieved its highest turnover since its inception of ₹28,215 crore, marking an impressive growth of 57 percent over the previous year.

Also, the PSU showed a positive profit before tax after six financial years. During the year, the company achieved an EBITDA of ₹3,469 crore, recording a growth of 148 percent over the previous year.

The company has also earned a cash profit of ₹1,923 crore in the financial year 2021-22.

VSP performed well between 2002 and 2015, earning profits and boasting of a positive net worth. The plant turned around in 2002 after being reported to BIFR as a sick company.

From 2015 onwards, though the turnover of RINL went up from ₹10,059.34 crore in 2015-16 to ₹15,819.24 crore in  2019-20, its cash reserves were in the negative to the tune of ₹1, 618.06 crore.

The cash reserves of RINL were at ₹4,983.35 crore in 2015-16.

However, RINL suffered losses of ₹1,420.64 crore in FY 2015-16, ₹1,263.16 crore in 2016-17, and ₹1,369.01 crore in 2017-18.

In the 2019-20 fiscal, the company had a loss of ₹3,910.17 crore.