We Also Make the Econ­omy

The Economic Times - - Breaking Ideas - Chaud­hary Biren­der Singh

‘You can’t work in a steel mill and think small,’ said Amer­i­can poet Jack Gil­bert. We, in In­dia, know this to be a fact. Af­ter all, In­dia be­came the world’s third-largest steel pro­ducer in 2015, the sec­ond-largest stain­less steel pro­ducer in 2016, and the sec­ond­largest net ex­porter of steel in 2016-17.

But the Na­tional Steel Pol­icy 2017 is a proof of that In­dia won’t sit on its lau­rels. The pol­icy lays down a fu­ture roadmap of the steel in­dus­try till 2031. By then, it pro­poses to more than dou­ble the present lev­els of pro­duc­tion and con­sump­tion of steel in In­dia. The over­ar­ch­ing ob­jec­tive is to sub­stan­tially en­hance the con­tri­bu­tion of steel to GDP from to­day’s 2%. The gov­ern­ment has pro­vided an en­abling en­vi­ron­ment and a level play­ing field. This has led to build­ing an ed­i­fice for the in­dus­try, which will serve as the foun­da­tion for fu­ture growth and de­vel­op­ment. While GoI came for­ward with pol­icy and reg­u­la­tory sup­port, it goes to the credit of the steel in­dus­try as a whole that it demon­strated grit and re­silience to bounce back when the head­winds changed to tail­winds.

In the trans­for­ma­tion and turn­around of the steel in­dus­try, GoI has played a proac­tive role by safe­guard­ing the in­ter­est of all the stake­hold­ers. Re­al­is­ing that the in­dus­try was in the dol­drums, a sit­u­a­tion ag­gra­vated by bur­geon­ing non-per­form­ing as­sets (NPAs) and a down­turn in the world steel mar­ket, sev­eral mea­sures were taken in quick suc­ces­sion to en­sure that in­ter­ests of all key stake­hold­ers are pro­tected.

The fin­ish­ing touch to the ‘steel turn­around’ story is be­ing given through the cleans­ing of NPAs. The stressed as­sets are be­ing re­struc­tured to bring back fi­nan­cial strength and cred­i­bil­ity to the sec­tor.

Since July 2016, GoI has been fo­cus- ing on five thrust ar­eas: (1) pro­duc­tion and pro­duc­tiv­ity in­crease; (2) re­search and de­vel­op­ment; (3) In­di­an­made steel con­cept; (4) de­mand boost for steel; and (5) ex­cel­lence in qual­ity and ef­fi­ciency.

This strat­egy has given de­sired re­sults with In­dia’s emer­gence as a lead­ing coun­try among steel-pro­duc­ing na­tions. In­dia hap­pens to be among the few coun­tries to have a pos­i­tive de­mand growth for steel.

A‘pref­er­ence to do­mes­ti­cally man­u­fac­tured iron and steel prod­ucts in gov­ern­ment pro­cure­ments’ pol­icy is a big step in the di­rec­tion of pro­mot­ing In­dia-made steel. For de­mand gen­er­a­tion, amend­ment in gen­eral fi­nan­cial rules (GFR) and sev­eral other ini­tia­tives have been put in place through joint in­ter-min­is­te­rial ef­forts, to en­hance steel con­sump­tion in In­dia.

Steel-in­ten­sive houses that are cost­ef­fec­tive, durable and can be built eas­ily in dif­fi­cult ter­rains are be­ing pro­moted. Steel toi­lets con­trib­ute to the Swachh Bharat Ab­hiyan, and more and more roads have steel crash bar­ri­ers so that fa­tal­i­ties in road ac­ci­dents can be min­imised.

While lay­ing stress on im­prov­ing pro­duc­tion, a fo­cus on qual­ity has also been sharp­ened, re­sult­ing in 75% of steel prod­uct cat­e­gories now cov­ered un­der the Bureau of In­dian Stan­dards (BIS) regime. In­dia is steadily mov­ing to­wards a 100% qual­ity regime in the steel sec­tor so that the health and safety of the gen­eral pub- lic is not ad­versely im­pacted.

Sec­ondary steel producers, who pro­duce more than half the steel in In­dia, are also be­ing given their due im­por­tance. Or­gan­is­ing a na­tional con­fer­ence for sec­ondary steel producers, tak­ing up their tech­no­log­i­cal hur­dles for R&D, the de­ci­sion to rank sec­ondary steel producers, and to in­sti­tute awards for them are a few of ini­tia­tives to this end.

En­vi­ron­ment preser­va­tion also mat­ters, which is why the work­ing to­wards pro­duc­ing ‘clean and green’ steel. The fea­si­bil­ity of set­ting up scrap-based steel plants — so that scrap from cars, white goods, etc, that have reached end-of-life stage can be re­cy­cled — is also be­ing ex­am­ined, which will re­sult in sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment.

GoI is re­viv­ing steel pro­cess­ing units in dif­fer­ent parts of the coun­try to con­trib­ute to eco­nomic growth of the re­gion and to cre­ate more em­ploy­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties. GoI and pub­lic sec­tor units (PSUs) have pro­vided skill train­ing to thou­sands, mak­ing them self-suf­fi­cient.

Two ma­jor digi­ti­sa­tion ini­tia­tives by the PSU MSTC are MSTC Metal Mandi and e-RaKAM (e-Rashtriya Kisan Agri Mandi). While the for­mer pro­vides a plat­form for metal buy­ers and sell­ers, the lat­ter is for farm­ers and agri­cul­ture-re­lated busi­ness­men. Both will make sys­tems faster, trans­par­ent and eas­ier.

The writer is Union steel min­is­ter, GoI

Steel life in mixed me­dia

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