Rising steel prices to be curbed: PM(Roundup)

April 22nd, 2008 - 7:39 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh

Bokaro (Jharkhand), April 22 (IANS) Voicing concern over rising steel prices, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Tuesday said “necessary steps” would be taken to check the trend as he laid the foundation stone of a Rs.110-billion expansion and modernisation project of the Bokaro Steel Plant, one of India’s largest steel mills. Urging steel traders not to take advantage of the situation, the prime minister said in a brief speech on the occasion: “Our government will take necessary steps to curb the rising prices.”

The capacity of the steel plant, which produces 4.5 millions tonnes of hot metal, will go up to 7.44 million tonnes after the expansion. Its crude steel production also will rise to 7 million tonnes from 4.36 million tonnes.

The prime minister also laid the foundation stone for a cold rolling mill and a steel melting shop.

“SAIL (Steel Authority of India Ltd) was the mark of industrialisation of India, and the role of the Bokaro plant was crucial in (the country’s) industrialisation,” Manmohan Singh said. “The modernisation of the plant will create employment in the state.

“Our steel industry in growing fast. And it has to achieve miles and increase its production to meet the demands. There is a lot of scope for modernisation in the steel sector.

“And it is my firm belief that the Bokaro plant will achieve several milestones in the steel producing sector.”

The Bokaro Steel Plant, built with Russian help in the sixties when a newly independent India was laying the foundation for industrialisation, also has a captive power plant. Increased demand for steel in recent years saw all the blast furnaces becoming operational together for the first time.

Among those who attended the foundation stone ceremony was Steel Minister Ramvilas Paswan and SAIL chairman S.K. Roongta.

Paswan said his ministry was ready to set up a steel plant with 12 million tonne capacity in Jharkhand if the iron ore dispute with the state was settled.

“The steel ministry is serious about setting up a 12 million tonne greenfield steel plant. The new project is getting delayed due to the dispute over Chiria mines between the ministry and the Jharkhand government,” said Paswan.

“The ministry has made a proposal to the state of sharing 1 billion tonne iron ore each. However, Jharkhand has not followed up the proposal. The Chiria mines dispute is now pending in the Jharkhand High Court. The dispute should settled soon to help the expansion of SAIL,” he added.

“I appeal to the state government to expedite the mater. The production of steel is rising by 10 percent every year in the country but consumption is rising by 13 percent. We need to increase our production.

“SAIL has moved to the fifth position from eighth in steel production in the last four years. It is likely to achieve second position by 2015. Our initial target was to achieve 110 million tonne output by 2020, but now we have set a new target of 124 million tonne by 2011,” Paswan added.

According to him, SAIL needs Rs.540 billion ($13.5 billion) for expansion and modernisation of the steel plants to achieve the target.

“The steel industry majors like Nisco and BRL will merge with SAIL by 2011,” the minister announced.

The steel minister also announced to give Rs.3,000 reward to each employee of SAIL as the company is celebrating it’s golden jubilee.

Meanwhile, over 100 workers of the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) were arrested in Ranchi while protesting over rising prices of essential commodities during the prime minister’s visit.

They were marching to the Birsa Munda airport to show black flags to Manmohan Singh when they were held.

During Manmohan Singh’s speech at Bokaro, over 50 BJP workers shouted slogans against rising prices. The police arrested them too.

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