No justification for a steel price hike – Virbhadra Singh

Shimla: Union minister for steel, Virbhadra Singh categorically stated a price hike in steel products was not justified. Speaking to the media on his maiden visit after being inducted into the Manmohan cabinet he said that costs of raw material, be it iron ore or coke, was down.

Besides, there was a slump in the international market as supply was outstripping demand. It was only in India and China where demand for steel was rising, he said.

Without responding to a question whether the ministry would consider imports should steel prices rise, he asked the industry to desist from taking a unilateral decision about a price hike.

He said that the steel ministry was open to disinvestment in some public sector undertakings and a decision to the effect would only be taken after the cabinet took a policy decision to the effect.

Choosing to reserve his comment on disinvestment, the new steel minister said that the cabinet was yet to approve a policy about disinvesting stakes in PSU’s. Only then we will take a decision, he said.

The government sector steel industry had a Rs 70,000 crore capital outlay planned out which would double the production capacity, he said.

Spelling out his 100 day agenda Virbhadra Singh said that the ministry had drawn up a 20 point program which included obtaining clearances for the Rs 16,000 crore NMDC steel plant in Nagarnar, Chattisgarh, restructuring of smaller PSU’s, reopening Panna diamond mines and floating some joint ventures as part of backward and forward linkages for SAIL and other government companies.

Other than the Khandori steel processing unit coming up in Kangra district of Himachal Pradesh, the minister said that a survey team would be sent to prospect for setting up another such unit in Nahan, where one of the foremost foundry’s in North India existed earlier. The ministry would be open to other such units in other parts of the state as demand for steel was products rising, he added.

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