No matter what the State government says, or its spokespersons claim, the Centre will not recognise the sentiments or the feelings of the people of Andhra Pradesh for Visakha Steel Plant privatisation.
It is now crystal clear that privatisation of Visakha Steel Plant (VSP) is now just a matter of time. What is more alarming is the statement of the Minister of State for Finance Anurag Thakur in Parliament that the government had decided to privatise five steel industries and if no purchaser comes forward, they would be closed.
The attitude of the Centre seems to be like no matter how much the demonstrators shout, it will ensure its dominance. May be the situation would have been different if the political executive and the Opposition had woken up early and had acted in time to see that the process of privatisation had not reached advanced stage.
The Centre has been making well-calculated and systematic move to privatise the Visakhapatnam Steel Plant along with other PSUs. The seed for privatisation was laid in 2018 October when officials of the Steel Ministry met RINL officials and representatives of the Korean company POSCO. The TDP claims that they had objected to any such proposal then itself. But then it did not subside. The issue went before the standing committee of Parliament and the committee in its report in March 2020 gave its consent for “100 percent disinvestment.”
The report of this committee was sent to the State government. Since the committee chairman and another member were from the YSRCP, the government naturally would have been in the know of things. If a concerted effort by the State government and the Opposition had started at that point of time, perhaps the Centre would have decided otherwise. But neither the State government, nor the Opposition woke up. The protests and that too by the workers of the VSP and some other social organisations began after the Union Finance Minister Nirmala Seetharaman announced that VSP would be privatised during her Budget speech 2021.
Ever since then, the State BJP and other parties including the Jana Sena have been indulging in flip flop game. There was no united effort. The State BJP first said they were opposed to privatisation but after their visit to Delhi they went into hiding. The Jana Sena too which had opposed the move decided to maintain low profile.
The ruling party MPs and Ministers participated in the State bandh and the Chief Minister shot off two letters but it did not take categorical stand that it will not agree for privatisation and will not cooperate with the Centre if it fails to recognise the sentiments and aspirations of the people.
Taking advantage of this, the Centre continues to go ahead with its decision to implement 100 percent disinvestment. The interesting turn in this episode is that Telangana government has taken a firm stand saying that they are opposed to privatisation of VSP. If that is permitted to happen, next would be Singareni Collieries, the Telangana Minister for Industries K T Rama Rao said.
Unfortunately, such a firm stand and united action is not found in Andhra Pradesh because the tendency is more towards centralisation and it seems to have now reached an unprecedented height, with the Union government having greater financial powers specially after the introduction of Goods and Services Tax.
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