Opposing the decision of Steel Authority of India Limited (SAIL) to dismantle its Raw Material Division (RMD), headquartered in Kolkata, state finance minister Amit Mitra has urged Union petroleum minister Dharmendra Pradhan to direct the SAIL board members to reconsider the decision.

The company’s board has recently decided to close down the division headquarters in Kolkata and transfer control of its mines to Rourkela Steel Plant in Odisha and Bokaro Steel Plant in Jharkhand.

Alleging a devious intention of undermining Durgapur and Burnpur Plants of SAIL, Mr Mitra wrote: “It appears to me that there is a rather devious intent of undermining the two iconic Steel Plants in Bengal. By dismantling the RMD, Kolkata..and not providing any captive mines to Durgapur and Burnpur, these two massive Steel Plants, employing 14,4oo workers, would soon be in dire state. I may point out that these Plants today are profitable entities having yielded a profit of Rs 1,486 crores.”

Mr Mitra apprehended that these Plants in Bengal would “either be asset stripped or sold off in the name of disinvestment, having crippled them through the current policy shift”. He further added that the decision has been taken close on the heels of BJP’s recent electoral defeat in the state.

In the letter Mr Mitra wrote that the decision to dismantle the RMD unit will “result in job losses of scores of contractual employees in the midst of this Covid pandemic” while over 100 permanent employees working in RMD, Kolkata “will face total destabilisation of their families…with imminent transfer”.

Mr Mitra said the two Steel Plants in West Bengal will be left with no captive mines nor would they get supplies of iron ore due to dismantling of RMD, Kolkata. Infact Durgapur and Burnpur plants of SAIL will be left helpless to procure their raw materials from the open market or remain at the mercy of Rourkela and Bokaro to provide them raw materials, he wrote.

Meanwhile, SAIL employees have called for a strike on 30 June, demanding wage revision while Trade union leaders said the company’s production and mining activities may be affected by the central government’s decision

Condemning the decision, Trinamul Congress leader Shukhendu Shekhar Roy said the RMDs were set up to effectively manage the country’s major steel plants located in Bengal. In the financial year 2020-21, SAIL has earned a profit of about Rs 3470 crore and RMD, Kolkata has a significant contribution behind it, said Mr Roy adding that it will be unfortunate if the central government closes it.