While the Center and states are struggling againstCovid-19 with lockdowns and other measures to ensure social isolation, the Union Steel Ministry has urged governments to provide effective directions to enable unrestricted inter-state movement of raw materials and finished steel trucks to maintain an efficient supply chain.
On Tuesday, Binoy Kumar Steel Secretary writes to state chief secretaries arguing against the implementation of any limitations on the activity of steel plants, entry-exit of staff working in such plants, transportation of raw materials such as iron ore, coal, limestone stone, dolomite, ferroalloys, scrap, sponge iron, and intermediate or finished goods to and from these plants.
Due to theCovid-19 outbreak, the steel sector is experiencing difficulties in terms of labor scarcity and availability of raw materials due to societal distancing norms being imposed.
Industry sources said around 20 people are required both for loading and unloading a truck.
The steel plants referred to in the letter comprise both integrated steel plants as well as steel-intensive systems centered on induction furnace or electric arc. The transport of the raw material and finished goods would be allowed, as required by the minister, to travel via all rail and road as well as waterways or seaways.
"This (the letter) is a reference to the recent limitations on the activity of non-essential commercial establishments and people's movement levied by several state governments to avoid the spread of Covid-19. In this regard, it has come to the attention of this ministry that there are problems faced by many steel plants throughout the country regarding the entry of employees, the availability of raw materials and the dispatch of finished steel, etc. It is not only expected to negatively impact the activities of these steel plants but also has the ability to destroy their plant and equipment, "he added.
The steel secretary has banked on Section 2(1) (a) (xii) of the Esma, 1981 which lists ‘any service in any establishment or undertaking detailing with the production, supply or distribution of coal, power, steel or fertilizers’ as an ‘essential service’.
"Since mining operations are vital to the activity of steel plants, it is also requested that no constraints be imposed on the activity of iron ore mines, coking coal, thermal coal, limestone stone, dolomite, manganese, chromite, etc., as well as on the operation of sponge iron, ferroalloys, iron ore pellet plants, etc. which will provide raw materials for steel production," the secretary wrote.