By Our Correspondent
BHUBANESWAR/JAPUR: Gone are the days, when Jajpur veteran Prafulla Ghadai shared dais with MESCO Steel CMD Rita Singh but things taking U-turn with Junior Ghadai read Sukinda MLA Danny Ghadai aka Pritiranjan Ghadai leading an upfront battle against the Woman Steel maker New Delhi based Rita Singh, once was under scanner of CBI.
It was well known, when in power senior Ghadai played his clout in entire Sukinda-Kaliapani chrome valley in Jajpur through Trade Union leader Samrat Gupta but now, junior Ghadai, who happens to be the local MLA, took to street against MESCO.
Sources said, Rita Singh paid handsomely to Ghadai family when her MESCO Steel plant in Jajpur and mines in Joda-Barbil region in Keonjhar were running smoothly but things changed later with the Steel maker facing financial crisis after Mesco Steel had bought the ailing Maithan Ispat– the 0.2 million tonne steel plant at Kalinga Nagar—in 2015, but the plant has been shut since March this year due to a shortage of iron ore. MESCO has had very poor track record in Odisha in terms of CSR work. The Company has been alleged of violating many laws relating to water, land, forest and wildlife.
Singh, Chairman and Managing Director of Mesco Steel, having steel facility in Odisha, was reportedly not allowed to come out of the company guest. The employees and workers led by MLA Danny Ghadai alleged that they have not got salaries, bonus for 11 months
Police escorted Singh to Bhubaneswar on Wednesday night after the agitating workers of Maithan Ispat Ltd at Kalinganagar in Odisha’s Jajjpur district tried to detain her again.
Rita Singh run Mesco Steel had bought the ailing Maithan Ispat– the 0.2 million tonne steel plant at Kalinga Nagar—in 2015, but the plant has been shut since March this year due to a shortage of iron ore.
Earlier in the day, police and the district administration had rescued her from a hotel after being detained for 24 hours.Police later detained the workers at Kalinganagar police station.
Protesting against the police action, BJD MLA Ghadai, who had joined the workers at the dharna in the morning, said that the talks between the workers and the Mesco Steel CMD failed. “She did not promise to fulfil their demands to provide them with 10-month arrear salary and two-year bonus. Since the demands of the workers are legitimate, the agitation will continue,” he added.
Odisha’s Kalinga Nagar industrial complex houses Tatas, Jindals, VISA steel and Mesco group and has been declared a National Investment and Manufacturing Zone. However, the lack of raw materials have led to the closure of a number of steel companies in the complex this year, says state’ steel body.
Kalinga Nagar industrial complex–the largest in Odisha– is about 100 km from Bhubaneswar and houses Tatas, Jindals, VISA steel and Mesco group. Centre declared it as a National Investment and Manufacturing Zone in June this year amidst hope that it could produce 100 million tonnes of steel per annum, one-third of the country’s total target of 300 MTPA of Steel.However, the lack of raw materials have led to the closure of a number of steel companies in the complex this year.
“The Maithan Steel authorities have shut the plant and have also not paid our pending dues. Despite approaching the plant authorities time and again, they have been giving us false assurances. We were promised that our salaries will be paid and the plant will be restarted by November 2019, but it is yet to materialise. So ultimately, we chose to intensify our agitation,” said a protester, workers said.
After her release from house arrest, Rita Singh condemned the incident and said “Industries have good and bad phases, but it is in the best interests of all if we allow it to run despite all odds. As the steel sector is in a slowdown, I assured the workers that let the company run and once we get a financer, the situation will improve.”
“We paid the workers Rs 55 lakh settled as per our last agreement which unfortunately got delayed. I have put forward my recommendation but they are hell bent on securing full and final payment. So let them come with a feasible suggestion,” said Singh.“I have worked for 32 years and I hope that at least entrepreneurs are given respect,” Singh added.
Briefing about the incident, ADM of Kalinganagar Santosh Mishra said, “Mesco CMD Rita Singh has no direct authority over Maithan Steel but since she is the mother of the plant’s MD Sipra Singh, the protesters detained her seeking urgent intervention to clear out their dues. After discussion, some amount of the pending arrears have been paid to workers and the plant authorities have assured to pay back the rest soon. Once the district collector and Maithan Steel MD return back, a meeting to start the plant will be held to resolve the issue.”