A mass road blockade observed by Vizag Steel Plant (VSP) employees in Visakhapatnam district since March 8, 2021, could soon turn into a full-fledged strike by March 25, reported The New Indian Express.
Over the week, workers under the leadership of the Visakha Ukku Parirakshana Porata Committee blocked the National Highway-16 to protest Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s confirmation in the Lok Sabha of the plan to privatise the steel plant.
Hundreds of workers, which grew to thousands by Tuesday, assembled outside the gates of the steel plant and sloganeered against the central and state governments. They also burnt copies of Sitharaman’s statement at Kurmannapalem junction.
Owing to the blockade, nearly 80 vehicles carrying polling staff for the Greater Visakhapatnam Municipal Corporation (GVMC) elections on March 10, including presiding officers and APOs, and election material to Gajuwaka polling stations were held up momentarily. During the voting, employees called off their protest but resumed relay hunger strikes on March 11.
Following the incident, Chief minister Jagan Mohan Reddy sent a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeking an appointment to explain the on-ground situation and discuss alternatives to revive the VSP from losses. He also offered an all-party delegation along with various trade union representatives to discuss the issue.
However, after days of demonstration, the Committee confirmed their strike towards the end of the month. Workers also served a notice to the Rashtriya Ispat Nigam Limited (RINL) Chairman and Managing Director demanding a withdrawal of the decision to sell 100 percent of the plant, scrap inter-secretaries group constituted to study the strategic sale and scrap the MoU signed with South Korean steel giant POSCO in 2019 for the construction of an integrated steel plant.
Another demand is the suspension of a recent MoU with National Buildings Construction Company (NBCC) on redevelopment and monetisation of land parcels at Maddilapalem and providing permanent employment to all left-out rehabilitation card holders.
The Porata Committee is also considering a ‘Chalo Delhi’ call with road blockades at national highways of all 13 districts in coming days.