Neelachal Ispat Nigam Ltd. (NINL), a 1.1 MTPA integrated Iron & Steel Plant in Kalinganagar, Odiaha was set up as a joint sector unit between MMTC (Ministry of Commerce), IPICOL & OMC ( Govt. of Odisha) ,NMDC (a PSU under Ministry of steel), BHEL, MECON and banks & financial institutions by the legendary visionary leader Biju Babu. This was his dream project. All share holders are either central or state govt or their undertakings. NINL has been producing and exporting Pig iron and in fact it was the largest exporter of Pig iron since 2002. It also produces Billets, LAM Coke, Crude Tar, Fertilizer and Sinter etc. The present capacity of the plant is 1.1 Million Ton per annum. Government of Odisha has allotted undisputed 2500 Acre land along with iron ore mines of 110 Million Ton reserve & 50 years of lease expecting that the plant will bring economic prosperity to the state.
The plant has all infrastructure facilities to enhance its capacity to 10 Million Ton per annum without any hassles as regards to availability of land and raw material supply. All the technical and non-technical employees as well as contract labourers totalling about 5000 have sufficient expertise, sincerity, hard working and dedication to meet any challenge for its capacity enhancement. Government of India has envisioned to produce 300 Million Tonne of steel by 2030 out of which 100 Million Tonne are planned for productions from Odisha it self in which case NINL can play an important role. Ministry of Steel is planning to make Kalinganagar a steel hub of India and accordingly all the infrastructure and logistics will be stepped up. It is a coincidence that NINL is strategically located in the Kalinganagar steel hub and has all the parameters to be a part of the ambitious development agenda planned by Ministry of Steel, GOI.
After the decision of strategic disinvestment of 100% shares in NINL taken by the Central Government, Major promoter MMTC as well as other minor promoters have stopped further funding for running of the plant leading to suspension of production of all units from March 2020 during COVID-19 lockdown period. For no fault of the employees they are being deprived of getting their salaries/remunerations for past nine months(March 2020). This has also lead to restlessness among employees and strikes on several occasions. NINL once acclaimed largest exporter of pig iron is in the process of disinvestment being carried out by DIPAM under Ministry of Finance. Till now EOI (Expression of Interest) is not yet floated. Two deadlines have passed, nobody knows when disinvestment will be completed. DIPAM has also pointed out that COVID has put brakes for disinvestment. In view of uncertainty arises due to global meltdown of economy caused by COVID-19 pandemic it is very difficult for DIPAM to arrange quickly a strategic investor to save this glorious public asset.
The major share holder is having financial constraints and is not willing to pump in the required funds to keep the plant in operation mode. If such a stalemate continues for a longer duration the losses will not only mount up but also equipments and the process plant will be damaged. A profit making plant is being pushed to loss making unit and hence calls for urgent action to correct the situation. Such a depreciated unit will lead to a heavy reduction in its market value which will be a great loss not only to the share holders but also to the country. Disinvestment decision by the Govt of India will be quite unfortunate and a sad decision looking into the assets of the plant, its past working, availability of land, raw material security, infrastructure facility and the opportunities for future expansion etc.
Its registered Employees Unions & Association have filed writ Application 28122/2020 dt. 16-10-2020 in Orissa High Court under Article 226, 227 of the Constitution of India challenging the action/inaction of its managing promoters Metals and Minerals Trading Corporation Ltd (MMTC), Government of India, other promoters National Mineral Development Corporation (NMDC), Industrial Promotion and Investment Corporation of Odisha Ltd. (IPICOL), Odisha Mining Corporation (OMC), Union of India represented through Ministry of Commerce & Industries, Ministry of Steel, Government of Odisha represented through Steel and Mines Department on the ground that proposed decision of disinvestment of 100% equity share of NINL, illegal & arbitrary action of opposite parties, more than 10000 families are adversely affected and deprived of maintaining their livelihood. In addition to this Neelachal executive association has also filed a writ petition No : 18159/2020 Dt. 03-08-2020 in Orissa High Court under Article 226, 227 for disbursement of salary from February 2020. Already notices were served by honourable Odisha High court. Petitioners have mainly accused MMTC as sole responsible for imbroglio.
Recently a high level meeting co-chaired by Honourable commerce & industry minister and Honourable Minister for PNG & Steel on Dt: 10.11.2020 was organised and minuted on Dt: 01.12.2020 related to NINL issues. In view of the promoters not being able to infuse further funds to NINL, in particular MMTC, DIPAM will take up few issues. A corpus fund of Rs 150/175 crore to be kept for payment of salaries & arrears and other statutory dues of NINL. Commerce Secretary and steel Secretary shall take up the matter with Secretary Mines regarding permission to NINL for commercial operation of its mines.
Ajit Kumar Pradhan, General Secretary of Neelachal Executive Association (NEA) NINL, told www.indianpsu.com that now once the GOI has envisioned for the development of eastern India under look east policy and mission PURVODAYA , it is pertinent that GOI to reconsider its decision of disinvestment and instead keep all the assets of NINL under a central PSU. Since all the present share holders are from State and Cental PSUs NINL merger with steel PSUs should not create any problem. Hence an alternate model to be worked out, so as to merge the unit with a steel PSU, SAIL/RINL/NMDC who are in the business of mines and steel making. In such an event MMTC shares can be taken over by a steel PSU. Any delay in restarting the production and sale will lead to loss of revenue to state and central Govt. and will affect the livelihood of 5000 employees as well as the surrounding beneficiaries. After the merger NINL will play a major role in the economic activity of the country as well as bringing industrial harmony in the region.