We Also Make the Economy
‘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