*Chaudhary Birender Singh
It has been over half a year now when I took charge of the Steel Ministry, from a worthy predecessor. My experience in this Ministry as also in the previous charge, has reaffirmed my view that our Government under the visionary leadership of Shri Narendra Modi is a cohesive, collaborative and progressive team. His single-minded goal of making 21st century, the century of India and to bring back the golden era of India is keeping all of us focussed and committed to this unified mission.
Each Ministry is dependent on other Ministries and departments for various purposes, and when all the ministries work as a team, the ultimate beneficiary is India and all Indians.
Let me elaborate this point using the example of Ministry of Steel. The process of steel making starts with raw materials like coal, iron ore, nickel, manganese etc. Raw materials constitute a significant portion in production cost of steel. Our government brought in landmark reforms in Mining sector, which have removed a major bottleneck for raw material securitization. There were some issues related to duties and taxes on raw materials, for which we had detailed discussions with concerned Ministries and we are on course to resolve the issues to pave way for rapid growth of steel industry.
Railways have also agreed to our proposal to allow slurry lines crossing the railway tracks for bringing down cost and time of transportation of raw materials.
Ministry of Steel also took up the issues of tariff and non-tariff support measures for steel products which resulted in imposition of Minimum Import Price, Anti-dumping duties, Safeguard duties and adjustment in rates for movement of freight over a period of time. These steps have ensured a level playing field for Indian steel industry to grow and compete on equal terms with international steel companies. Moreover, India is on way to become net exporter of steel in the current financial year as a result of policy initiatives.
Issues related to Environmental clearances to projects were taken up and the results have been encouraging. There might be a few cases pending here and there for want of documentation at Centre and State level, which are being pursued, but the pendency has been brought down substantially.
All these decisions are enabling the steel industry to unshackle the barriers to growth and spread its wings to fly high and soon India will become the second largest steel producer in the world.
Hon’ble Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi dedicated to the nation the modernized and expanded facilities at two integrated steel plants of SAIL at Rourkela and Burnpur in 2015, thus taking India closer to its goal of being the 2nd largest steel producer. It has been under our Government only that India left behind USA to become the 3nd largest steel producer in the world.
MSTC, a PSU under Ministry of Steel signed a Joint Venture for setting up India’s first large-scale Auto-shredding Plant. Taking this idea forward, I have asked the Ministry to explore the possibility of setting up two scrap-based steel plants, one each in Northern and Western India. These are all included in “Indian Made Steel” strategy that we are adopting to give concrete shape to “Make in India” initiatives in steel industry. In Defence, Shipbuilding and other manufacturing sectors, the “Make in India” initiative is expected to witness significant investment, which will stimulate steel demand. The vision of Hon’ble Prime Minister has strengthened our resolve to work on innovative ways and out-of-the-box strategies to promote manufacturing in India.
This will help us move towards making cleaner, efficient and high quality steel closer to user markets and even in states with scarce natural resources. A couple of months back, MSTC also launched MSTC Metal Mandi, a Digital India initiative to provide an electronic platform for buyers and sellers of BIS steel.
It has been my endeavour that there should be a strict Quality regime in Indian steel industry for health and safety of the steel consumers, whether it be stainless steel, construction grade steel or other steel products. We have brought certain products under Quality Control Order and are gradually expanding the scope by bringing in more and more products under BIS certification.
Ministry of Steel is working on creating capacities for making special grade steels like electrical and auto-grade, with the objective of self-sufficiency and import substitution. I am of the firm view that Research and Development is a key growth driver for steel industry and we are pulling out all stops to promote R&D for market-driven growth. Steel companies have been asked to aim for attaining national and international benchmarks of performance and profitability. These decisions will make our Steel companies internationally competitive and capable of exporting high quality, value-added products from India.
In January 2017, we have released the Draft “National Steel Policy 2017” and have sought feedback and comments from different stakeholders. It aims at increasing per capita steel consumption in India to 160 kilogram and India’s steel production capacity to 300 million tonnes by 2030-31.
We need to also have a strategy for increasing steel demand for which support from Ministries influencing usage of steel is essential. I am glad to share that the support from Ministries has been forthcoming as per our expectations —
whether it be Ministry of Rural Development mandating use of steel in rural houses, Ministry of Urban Development in promotion of steel usage in constructions, Ministry of Railways agreeing to examine options for increasing steel use and Ministry of Road Transport & Highways looking into using steel in road bridges, highways etc in response to our proposals.
Ministry of Steel is also approaching the concerned departments for promoting use of steel-intensive bridges / bailey bridges and steel crash barriers alongside roads. We have been in talks with different State Governments in hilly states, to discuss ways and means to minimize fatalities in accidents by use of crash barriers alongside roads.
Detailed technical studies are underway to arrive at optimal specifications of crash barriers depending on state-specific factors like topography and geography. Steel can also be used in place of conventional RCC bridges and concrete barriers respectively, to take advantages of lower cost, quicker installation and longer life span.
We have suggested that Indian Railways can enhance steel usage in making railway stations, foot over bridges, rail coaches, construction of steel based railway colony buildings, especially in seismic zones, construction of dedicated freight corridors & superfast rail corridors, thereby saving time & CAPEX.
MyGov platform has been helpful in crowdsourcing ideas for increasing consumption of steel, some of which are indeed innovative and actionable. We are working on these ideas.
We are working on short term plans and targets on half-yearly, yearly and 3-year basis for faster monitoring and implementation.
All these efforts are yielding rich dividends in the form of India leading the growth trend in production and consumption of steel in major steel producing countries of the world. Last year, Mr. Edwin Basson, Director-general of the World Steel Association (WSA) stated that there was really only one location that had the long-term potential to pull the global steel market out of its current slump, and that was India.
To sum up, behind the success of all the initiatives, strategies, decisions and proposals of Ministry of Steel, one major contributing factor has been the continuous support from the partner Ministries. So these bonds of steel are underlying all Inter-Ministerial deliberations and outcomes. Let me go one step further and assert that Ministry of Steel is only a case in point, and I can say with confidence that this camaraderie, this partnership and this understanding is the hallmark of each Ministry under the Narendra Modi Government.
*Author is the Union Minister for Steel, Government of India.