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RINL privatisation not in public interest, say concerned citizens

Several concerned citizens including former IAS officers E.A.S.Sarma, C. Arjuna Rao and T. Gopala Rao have appealed to the Union Government to drop the decision to privatise Rashtriya Ispat Nigam Limited-the corporate entity of Visakhapatnam Steel Plant.

RINL puts up a good spectacular show again
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RINL puts up a good spectacular show again

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Visakhapatnam, February 27 Several concerned citizens including former IAS officers E.A.S.Sarma, C. Arjuna Rao and T. Gopala Rao have appealed to the Union Government to drop the decision to privatise Rashtriya Ispat Nigam Limited-the corporate entity of Visakhapatnam Steel Plant.

The joint appeal signed by several prominent citizens including Vice-Chancellor of Centurion University G.S.N.Raju and former Vice-Chancellor of Acharya Nagarjuna University V. Balamohan Das said the 'unilateral decision' of the NDA Government for selling 100% government equity is neither prudent from the public interest point of view nor in tune with the sentiments of the people of Andhra Pradesh.

In a separate letter, Sarma said more than half a century ago, there was a massive people's movement under the banner of 'Visakha Ukku Andhrula Hakku' that forced the Central Government to set up the steel plant in Visakhapatnam. The governments of the State and the Centre had initially tried to suppress that movement but it was the will of the people that ultimately prevailed. Several people who took part in that movement had lost their lives. The Lok Sabha debates of November/ December, 1966 showed how seven distinguished AP Members of the Parliament tendered their resignations when the Centre failed to respond to the public appeal for setting up a steel plant near the city, the letter pointed out.

Sarma said in due course, the Centre realised that the public sentiment was too strong to be ignored and made a statement in the Parliament in 1970 conveying its decision to set up a steel plant. The then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi laid the foundation stone in 1971.

Around 22,372 acres of fertile agricultural land were acquired forcibly for the steel plant in the name of a "public purpose", which under the provisions of the land acquisition legislation as existed at that time defined as "land required for a corporation owned by the government. In other words, when the local farmers were forced to part with their lands, they were assured that the land in question was needed for a public sector undertaking (PSU), that would be bound by the social policies of the government in the matter of recruitment of its employees and that it would create social assets all around for the larger benefit of the people," he pointed out.

Sarma said if the PSU was to be privatised now, it would not only violate the statutory provisions under which such a large extent of land was acquired at that time but also constitute a breach of the public trust. At today's market prices, the value of the land left with RINL would be in excess of Rs 150,000 crore. When the State Government handed over around 2000 acres of such valuable land to a private port some years ago at a nominal price, there was widespread public anger against that decision.

"The proposal now to hand over RINL to private companies including a foreign company would therefore be highly inappropriate," he stated in the letter.

Santosh Patnaik
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