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Steel regulatory authority — It's consumers' proposal, says Paswan

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The Union Steel Minister, Mr Ram Vilas Paswan, addressing a press meet on Wednesday at the Visakhapatnam Steel Plant. To his left is Mr B.K Panda, CMD of the plant, and to his right is Mr N. Janardhana Reddy, Member of Parliament. — C.V. Subrahmanyam

Visakhapatnam , June 16

THE Union Steel Minister, Mr Ram Vilas Paswan, has clarified that he has not conceived of the proposed steel regulatory authority, but that the idea has been mooted by the consumers and his Ministry is only acting on the proposal mooted by them.

In response to a question at a press meet at the Visakhapatnam Steel Plant on Wednesday, after his first visit to the plant, the Minister said that the proposal had come up at the recent national steel consumers' council meeting in New Delhi in which the representatives of several steel producers, both from the private sector and the public sector, had participated.

"It is being inaccurately reported that I am the author of the proposal,'' he clarified.''

It was felt by many that frequent fluctuations in prices would not be in the interests of either the industry or the consumers and that there should be some kind of regulation. "Acting on the suggestion, we have decided to submit the proposals to the Government in three months' time for setting up such an authority,'' he said.

To a question as to what kind of an impact such an authority would have on the growth of the industry, and what form of regulation was being envisaged, Mr Paswan did not spell out the details, but said that the industry must have no apprehensions.

"Regulation does not mean stifling control. Steel is also an essential commodity and it should be available all over the country at reasonable prices. That is why regulation is being contemplated,'' he said.

Referring to the Visakhapatnam Steel Plant, he congratulated the workers and the management for turning it around and earning profits for the past two years. "If the plant earns profits for the third consecutive year, we may confer upon it the mini ratna status,'' he said.

To reward the workers for their efforts, he said, his Ministry had taken the decision recently to clear the wage arrears for three years and he also announced an incentive of Rs 1,000 for each employee. The arrears would be paid before August 15.

Mr Paswan said the capacity of the plant would be enhanced to 7 million tonnes by 2012 and Rs 10,000 crore would be needed for the purpose. It would be met through internal resources.

Referring to the coking coal scarcity faced by the plant, he said it was not confined to VSP, but all plants in the country were suffering for want of adequate coal. His Ministry was taking the requisite steps to address the problem, he said.

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