VISA steel plant at Kalinga Nagar, Odisha shut down
VISA Steel shuts down its 0.5 million tonne steel plant at Kalinga Nagar on Monday. With local BJD workers allegedly preventing transportation, raw material supply to all units of the steel plant has been snapped since Wednesday last.
Sukinda legislator Priti Ranjan Ghadai, Collector Ranjan Kumar Das, VISA Steel authorities and a delegation of transport contractors and Kalinganagar labour union met on Friday to resolve the crisis but failed to make any breakthrough.
With the steel plant running out of raw materials and no new transportation allowed, VISA Steel was forced to shut shop till further orders and issued a closure notice to the District Labour Officer on Sunday.
“Management is forced to suspend the industrial activities at Blast Furnace, Direct Reduced Iron, Steel Melt Shop, Rolling Mill and Ferro Chrome units due to non-availability of requisite raw materials arising out of stoppage of transportation,” the notice said.
All workers and employees, except those engaged in emergency services, were asked not to report to duty. With the closure, a workforce of 2,200 (including 1600 workers and 600 employees) stand to lose employment.
VISA sources iron ore from Daitari Mines and chromite ore from Kaliapani mines of Odisha Mining Corporation (OMC). It gets coal supply from Paradip Port. With transportation blocked, no fresh stock could reach VISA steel. Although it had permission for 5,500 MT iron ore and 3,700 MT chromite, the raw materials were not transported to the plant since the last week. The company said, all dues related to raw materials and transportation of the OMC were made but “transportation was made to stop.”
On Monday, when the closure notice news spread, hundreds of workers of VISA Steel Plant staged a dharna in front of the main gate and later blocked the Express Highway-Danagadi road disrupting vehicular movement for over three hours.
Agitators claimed that raw material transportation to the plant from Kaliapani and Daitari was stopped following a directive from local legislator Ghadei.
Sources said crisis arose due to the conflict between the Sukinda MLA and Kalinga Nagar Labour Union, led by Mahendra Dhal, an opponent of Ghadei. In Friday’s meeting, Ghadei had reportedly demanded the removal of Dhal from labour contract too. Besides, the majority of labourers engaged in the plant are affiliated to Kalinga Nagar Labour Union while the Ghadei-backed Kalinga Nagar Mazdoor Union is way behind.
However, BJD workers alleged that VISA management has been autocratic and violates pollution and employment norms. Meanwhile, two platoons of police have been deployed in the plant area to prevent any untoward incident. ADM, Kalinga Nagar, Abdul Alim Khan could not be contacted after repeated attempts.