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Govt committed to growth, viability of public sector: PM

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Rs 3 lakh crore to be invested in steel sector by 2020

MARCH OF PROGRESS: The Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, laying the foundation stone for the modernisation and expansion of IISCO steel plant along with the Chief Minister of West Bengal, Mr Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, and the Union Minister for Chemicals, Fertiliser and Steel, Mr Ram Vilas Paswan, at Burnpur in West Bengal on Sunday. - A. Roy Chowdhury
MARCH OF PROGRESS: The Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, laying the foundation stone for the modernisation and expansion of IISCO steel plant along with the Chief Minister of West Bengal, Mr Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, and the Union Minister for Chemicals, Fertiliser and Steel, Mr Ram Vilas Paswan, at Burnpur in West Bengal on Sunday. - A. Roy Chowdhury

Ambar Singh Roy

Incidentally, the investment of Rs 9,592 crore in the modernisation and expansion of IISCO Steel Plant in Burnpur is the single-largest investment in West Bengal in the last 10 years.

Burnpur, West Bengal, Dec. 24

The Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, has emphasised that "there is no blind disinvestment strategy without examining (the) viability" of the undertaking concerned. He also reiterated the UPA Government's "commitment to the long-term growth and viability of the public sector".

Speaking at the foundation stone laying ceremony of the Rs 9,592-crore modernisation and expansion of the IISCO Steel Plant here today, Dr Singh said the UPA Government was committed to the modernisation and expansion of public sector enterprises.

"We have an effective system for examining the viability of each and every loss-making public sector unit with a view to identifying its long term prospects for rehabilitation and growth," he said, adding that the Government has provided large amount of funds for the revival of many such units. "The IISCO plant is an example whereby we are exploiting its synergies with SAIL and investing in its future growth," he said.

Steel Industry

The Prime Minister presented a strong case for the Indian steel industry to modernise and grow not only to meet the domestic demand but also to emerge as a major exporter. He said the increasing number of global steel majors that have announced plans to set up steel-making facilities in India, provided a fair indication of the comparative advantages of manufacturing steel here.

He, however, cautioned that the "only way to stay consistently profitable is to ensure that the Indian steel industry is benchmarked with the most globally competitive producers." Referring to West Bengal, Dr Singh said the State was "in the vanguard of India's initial charge for industrial development." However, in the last quarter century, it had fallen behind the more developed parts of the country.

Economic Growth

"It cannot continue to slip up in this regard. It must join the march of progress and benefit from the rapid economic growth of the country.

The time has come for a new era of industrial development in West Bengal. I hope the expansion of this steel plant here in Burnpur will mark a new beginning. West Bengal needs modern industries, and the jobs that come with it. It needs a process of industrialisation, which is employment-intensive, welfare-enhancing and, on the whole, humane and just. Every section of society should benefit from the spin-off benefits of industrialisation," he said.

Incidentally, the investment of Rs 9,592 crore in the modernisation and expansion of IISCO Steel Plant in Burnpur is the single-largest investment in West Bengal in the last 10 years. Speaking on the occasion, Mr Ram Vilas Paswan, Union Minister for Steel, said the merger of IISCO with SAIL would auger well for both the entities besides securing the future of around 16,000 people whose livelihood was intertwined with the future of IISCO.

He said the Union Steel Ministry was evaluating the efficacy of merging other such public sector units with SAIL in the future.

A committee has already been set up to examine the viability of merging the now-closed Kulti Iron Works of IISCO with SAIL.

Mr Paswan said SAIL was gearing up to effectively compete with global steel majors such as Mittal and POSCO who have announced plans to set up operations in India. Within the next three years, SAIL would invest nearly Rs 40,000 crore on modernisation and expansion of its steel plants. By that time, the production capacity of SAIL plants would go up to 22 million tonnes per annum (tpa), from 13 million tpa now. Overall, Rs 3,00,000 crore would be invested in the Indian steel sector by 2020. Domestic steel production is slated to go up to 80 million tpa by 2012 and further to 110 million tpa by 2020.

Industrial Turnaround

In his address, the West Bengal Chief Minister, Mr Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, said that after achievements in the agriculture sector, it was time for the State to focus on an industrial turnaround. Towards this end, it would be important to focus on and facilitate investments in sectors such as iron & steel, fertilisers & chemicals and IT & biotechnology, he said.

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(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated December 25, 2006)
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