Shivamogga: Thousands of workers of public enterprise Visvesvaraya Iron and Steel plant, (VISL) run by the Steel Authority of India Limited (SAIL) have opposed the move to privatize it.
While staging a protest on the premises of VISL on Tuesday, the workers accused SAIL of adopting a step-motherly approach towards the company. Without making any investment, VISL has been claiming that the factory is continuously under losses. On the other hand, SAIL is making huge investments in other factories, they said.
The VISL was started by the Mysuru Maharajas in 1917. In 1923, the production started. The factory was one among the major iron and steel producers in the country.
However, the trouble began when environmentalists started their agitation in the Kemmangundi forest area, where mining was done. The mining was stopped following the agitation and the factory started incurring losses.
In 1989, the state government, unable to bear the burden, handed over the VISL to the SAIL just for Re 1. The state government had insisted SAIL to make investments and put the finances on the right track and handed over the complete charge of VISL to SAIL by 1998.
The factory which had thousands of workers, now has 250 permanent employees and 1,500 contract workers. VISL Contract Workers Association Suresh explained that former CM B.S. Yediyurappa, who hails from Shivamogga district and his son BJP MP B.Y. Raghavendra had given tall assurances about bringing investments to the factory and are now tight lipped.
He further said that the 1,500 contract workers had worked in the factory for 20 to 30 years and presently they are aged between 45 and 50 years. They will have nowhere to go, he added. VISL factory is one of the best in the country. Instead of locking or privatizing it, all MPs from Karnataka, especially from BJP have to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi and convince him to save VISL, he added.