Exchange of letters between the Centre and West Bengal government over the dismantling of the raw material division of Steel Authority of India (SAIL) in the state is continuing. West Bengal finance minister Amit Mitra shot a letter on June 15 to union steel minister Dharmendra Pradhan requesting him to desist from the move as it would mean stripping the two state-based units of SAIL — Durgapur Steel Plant (DSP) and Burnpur Steel plant (BSP) — off their assets and job losses for hundreds of contract workers.
Pradhan wrote to Mitra on the very next day saying the latter’s fears were unfounded and assured him that the current practice of supplying the raw material to the two units would continue (plants located in West Bengal get iron ore from SAIL’s own mines located in other states) and that “there was no plan to terminate or reduce the employee strength of the company.”
On Friday, Mitra wrote to Pradhan again asking why the Union steel minister chose not to address the “major question of dismantling of the RMD.” Mitra wrote, “I once again urge you to stop the dismantling of RMD and keep its headquarters in Kolkata. Your confirmation that RMD will not be dismantled and its headquarters will remain in Kolkata will reassure many anxious workers and their families in the midst of the pandemic. I await your early validation on this matter”.
Mitra also said that since the present dispensation came into power in Delhi, there has been “an ominous pattern of removing headquarters of PSUs from Kolkata which has been here for half a century and even a century”. He cited the shifting of the headquarters of Hindustan Steel Works Construction (HSCL), subsidiary offices of Coal India, shifting of State Bank of India’s central accounts hub and the headquarters of UBI.
Mitra also expressed apprehensions that the headquarters of some iconic institutions of the Union government might be moved out of Kolkata into other cities in the country in the near future. Those include the headquarters of The Tea Board, Damodar Valley Corporation, National Insurance Company. Closure of Calcutta Stock Exchange, founded in 1908 was also being planned, he alleged.
SAIL’s raw material division runs 15 mines including iron ore mines, flux mines and coal mines. The eight iron ore mines under the division are spread across Orissa and Jharkhand. The two flux mines are in Jharkhand and Madhya Pradesh each and the remaining (coking) coal mines are in the ECL spread across Jharkhand and West Bengal.