Employees of the Visakhapatnam Steel Plant (VSP) on Sunday, February 13, organised a 'jail bharo' programme to mark one year of their protest against proposed privatisation. Demanding that the Union government take back its decision to privatise the plant, Visakha Ukku Parirakshana Porata Committee (VUPPC) stepped up its protest by taking out a huge rally in the city.
The protesters made it clear that their agitation will continue till the Union government withdraws its decision on strategic sale of VSP. The workers took out the rally from VSP arch to Gajuwaka, raising slogans against the central government. The workers sat in front of the police station at Gajuwaka, leading to a huge traffic jam on the national highway. Police arrested the protesters and shifted them to the police station.
The VUPPC leaders said the Union government should not privatise VSP as it was achieved after several struggles. They reminded the Modi government that it had to repeal the farm laws after realising its mistake following massive protests by farmers.
Film director and actor R. Narayana Murthy took part in the protest to show solidarity with the VSP workers. He hailed their struggle for the last one year and urged them to carry on till the Modi government withdraws its decision. Narayana Murthy also suggested to VUPPC to create awareness on the issue among people through folk performances. He also felicitated lyricist Suddhala Ashok Teja and singer Ramki for their song to motivate the workers during the year-long protest.
The workers had launched the agitation in February 2021 after the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs had given its approval for 100% strategic sale/privatisation of the Rashtriya Ispat Nigam Limited (RINL) along with its joint ventures and subsidiaries. RINL is the corporate entity of Visakhapatnam Steel Plant also known as Vizag Steel Plant.
In July, the Department of Investment and Public Asset Management (DIPAM) decided to hire legal and transaction advisors to prepare a road map for privatisation.
A delegation of the VUPPC leaders on Saturday, February 12, visited New Delhi to gather support of MPs to stop the privatisation. VUPPC chairman Narasinga Rao said despite the year-long agitation the Union government has remained adamant and is going ahead with its decision to privatise the plant.
The leaders also wanted Andhra Pradesh's ruling YSR Congress Party (YSRCP) to mount pressure on the Union government to take back its decision. They said the state government has not done anything except sending a letter to the Centre opposing the privatisation.
Watch: Explainer: The controversy over Vizag Steel Plant