The relay hunger strike against the privatisation of Visakhapatnam steel plant is ongoing and reached its 110th day as of June 1st. On March 8th, the Cabinet Committee of Economic Affairs approved a 100% disinvestment of the Rashtriya Ispat Nigam Ltd (RINL, Visakha Steel Plant, VSP). The plant currently employs around 50,000 employees, this includes contractual employees, permanent contract employees, and maintenance staff.
Workers and a number of activists have been protesting the privatisation of the plant; In a letter addressed to the PM of India, Ex IAS officer, EAS Sarma, has mentioned how the plant was built on 22,372 acres of land which was acquired forcibly, in the name of ‘public use’. Here, the farmers who had to part with their land were ultimately given the assurance that the Public Sector Undertaking (PSU) would create employment and social assets all around for the benefit of the people. The proposal to privatise the plant is a violation of the people’s trust and a violation of the assurance upon which the land was taken in the first place.
The hunger strike termed as the Ukku Relay Hunger Strike, aimed to exert pressure on the Central Govt to withdraw its decision, was launched at Kurmannapalem junction by trade unions on February 12th. So far rallies, road-blocks, public meetings, walkathons and the hunger strikes have been part of the protest against the Center’s decision. Displaced members of families who gave up their lands for the plant to be built have also taken part in relay hunger strikes. Former TDP MLA of Gajuwaka constituency Palla Srinivasa Rao went on a week long hunger strike in solidarity with the agitation. YSRCP, the ruling party, organised a 25-km ‘padayatra’ with Rajya Sabha MP V Vijayasai Reddy leading it, from GVMC Gandhi Statue to Kurmannapalem junction. Despite the ongoing Ukku protests, the Central Govt, has remained largely unresponsive to the agitation.
On June 1st, addressing the protesters of the relay strike, Visakha Ukku Parirakshana Porata Committee chairman Ch. Narasinga Rao, criticised the government for not providing vaccines to states, free of cost to the people. Porata committee chairmen D. Adinarayana and Mantri Rajasekhar, who were also present, stated that workers will not tolerate any decision where the Center is trying to misuse the power given to it by the people.