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TDP’s national role fuels hopes for Vizag railway zone, RINL retention

The TDP may seek substantial funds for projects like Polavaram instead of insisting on Special Category Status

TDP’s national role fuels hopes for Vizag railway zone, RINL retention
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TDP’s national role fuels hopes for Vizag railway zone, RINL retention

Visakhapatnam: With TDP national president N Chandrababu Naidu emerging as a key player at the national level after the elections, there is high expectations among the people mainly on operationalising the new railway zone with headquarter in Visakhapatnam and withdrawal of the decision to privatise Rashtriya Ispat Nigam Limited (RINL), the corporate entity of Visakhapatnam Steel Plant.

Though granting Special Category Status is a long pending demand, it has more or less remained an empty rhetoric. With TDP general secretary Nara Lokesh pointing out that their joining NDA is without any condition and the BJP repeatedly saying that the special category issue is a closed chapter, the new ruling party in Andhra Pradesh may demand its pound of flesh in the form of liberal release of funds for Polavaram and other projects instead of insisting on SCS.

The railway zone was promised by Prime Minister Modi at a rally here in the run-up to 2019 general elections. Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw during his visit to the city had announced that they would start work on the South Coast Railway Zone headquarter construction work within 15 days of handing over of the site by the State Government. During the elections, the Prime Minister himself had blamed the YSRCP Government for creating hurdles in the allotment of land for the zonal buildings drawing severe criticism from outgoing Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy for, what he termed, ‘distorting facts.’

“We expect that pending construction, the Centre with the support of the new government in the State should operationalise the zone without dilly-dallying,” Railway Zone Sadhana Porata Samiti convenor JV Satyanarayana Murthy told Bizz Buzz. An extent 52.2 acres have been identified for the zonal headquarters buildings at Mudasarlova.

There is hope that the TDP Government may revise the DPR for metro rail in Visakhapatnam and Vijayawada, which have not made any progress in the past five years, and seek viability gap funding from the Centre. There is a proposal to construct a six-lane expressway from Visakhapatnam to Bhogapuram International Airport, which is under construction by the GMR Group.

The RINL unions, which are protesting peacefully for retaining the company in the public sector, are hopeful that with BJP depending on TDP to a large extent due to its failure to obtain an absolute majority on its own, the Centre may not stuck to going ahead with privatisation. The decision for 100 per cent disinvestment was cleared by the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs in January, 2021. The unions hope that with the TDP’s promise during the electioneering to oppose privatisation, the Centre may consider capital restructuring, declaring interest holiday on borrowings and grant captive iron ore mines to improve its financial health. The steel plant’s accumulated debt liability has crossed Rs 20,000 crore.

TDP MLA-elect from Gajuwaka Palla Srinivasa Rao during the campaigning promised to exert pressure on the BJP to stop privatisation and explore other options. YSRCP leader and former Industries Minister Gudivada Amarnath said now it is the responsibility of TDP to use its strength on the BJP leadership to concede the demand of the people of North Andhra and the employees of RINL to retain the company in the public sector. BJP State president Daggubati Purandeswari had also stated in the past that they would convince the party leadership to withdraw the decision on privatisation.

Santosh Patnaik
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