AP govt endorses bandh opposing steel plant sale

Visakhapatnam Steel Plant.

Visakhapatnam,(Samajweekly) The Yuvajana Sramika Rythu Congress Party (YSRCP)-led Andhra Pradesh government has endorsed a state-wide bandh (strike) call given by labour union leaders opposing the privatisation of Visakhapatnam Steel Plant (VSP) on Friday.

“The AP government extends solidarity to the statewide bandh called by workers on Friday opposing the VSP privatisation decision,” said Information and Public Relations (I&PR) and Transport Minister Perni Venkatramaiah.

From the government’s side in support of the protest, APSRTC bus services will be stalled till 1 p.m. in the afternoon and when the transporters employees resume duty, they will sport black badges.

However, Venkatramaiah assured that public life will not be completely paralysed as health and emergency services will function as usual.

Citing the merging of APSRTC with the government, aimed at reviving the organization and curbing private players exploitation despite having a financial burden of Rs 3,600 crore, he said similarly the state government demands VSP to be in public sector.

The Minister said they will fight to any extent to retain the steel plant as a people’s asset which was procured after the sacrifice of 32 lives.

Recently, the Andhra Pradesh Cabinet took a decision to move a resolution in the Assembly, opposing the Central government’s plan to privatise VSP and also for putting more ‘pressure’ on the Centre.

In February, Chief Minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy met the labour union leaders spearheading the fight against the privatisation of VSP and informed them that he had written a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, suggesting the available possibilities to salvage the plant.

Allocation of mines in Odisha, converting bank debt into equity, and selling steel plant’s surplus land are the three major suggestions given by Reddy to the Prime Minister, among others.

Labour unions leaders have already launched a poster notifying the bandh.

Likewise, many people, including the employees and their families are protesting the privatisation plan where people from several states work.

In a unique protest, some youths were found dancing on the road, blaring a Telugu song questioning as to what right the government has to sell and also the entity which will come forward to buy it.

Many protesters have also launched a hunger strike against the decision. Protesters from different departments such as the blast furnace have also launched their demonstrations.

“Private sector companies’ main motive is to earn profits but my company’s (VSP) main motive is to provide service to the public along with profits. Give one chance to RINL with captive mines, we will prove what we are,” said Gopal, one of the protesters.

Another protester alleged that the Central government is waiving the debts of scamsters and also wiping out the public sector as a whole.

Visakhapatnam North MLA and Telugu Desam Party (TDP) leader Ganta Srinivas Rao recently submitted his resignation to the Assembly Speaker opposing the steel plant sale plan.

All signs are pointing out towards a long-term fight against the privatisation plan, adding one indefinite strike to the two already playing out in the state.

Two rival indefinite protests are currently underway in Amaravati, one supporting the capital city trifurcation and the other opposing it.