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Indian Iron makes profit

By Pratim Ranjan Bose

KOLKATA, JUNE 26. The Union Steel Ministry is considering merger of Indian Iron & Steel Co. Ltd (IISCO) with SAIL and dropping the plan for divestment of Salem Steel Plant (SSP). Plans are also afoot to approve the wage revision of IISCO, which is due since 1997.

Addressing a press conference at Rourkela Steel Plant today, the Union Steel Minister, Ram Vilas Paswan said that the ministry was closely following the turnaround process of IISCO. The Centre had recently approved the Rs. 341 crore revival package for the company.

"We have just invested money in IISCO. The company has started registering profits. We will wait for some time and see how it carries on. Then we will consider whether to merge it with SAIL", Mr. Paswan said.

IISCO registered a net profit of Rs. 27.9 crores in 2003-04, after decades of losses. Merging IISCO with SAIL has some a logical reason too. SAIL, which is currently facing iron ore shortage, has shown keen interest in IISCO's iron ore mine at Chiria. The steel minister also announced the pay revision of the IISCO employees.

Talking on SSP, Mr. Paswan said that the unit has started registering profits. "There is no question of privatising a profit-making unit." For years SAIL management was contemplating selling off SSP. Bids were sought but nothing has been finalised. Jindal Stainless Steel was reported to be the highest bidder.

Meanwhile, the Steel Minister ruled out the re-introduction of the DEPB (Duty Entitlement Pass Book) rates for steel exports, which were abolished in March, this year. "There is huge demand of steel in the domestic market. We would first meet this demand and then consider exports", Mr. Paswan said.

On the issue of the proposed steel regulatory commission, the minister said that the proposal was forwarded by consumers at a meeting of the National Steel Consumers Council which went unopposed by the major producers, both public and private sector.

Stating that he favoured the proposal and would pursue its implementation, he said that "the commission would be a totally independent body and Union Government would not interfere in its functioning. A final decision would be taken after holding talks with the other ministries".

SAIL management has worked out a Rs. 530 crore modernisation programme for RSP. Out of it, Rs. 455 crores worth of programme is already underway and the rest, Rs. 75 crores, was sanctioned on Saturday.

The minister said that an all round effort would be made to acquire coal mines either domestic or abroad to ride over the coking coal crisis. Joint ventures might be worked out too.

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