RINL workers urged Union Steel Minister Dharmendra Pradhan to take over French company Air Liquid India Holding Pvt Ltd and hand it over to Visakhapatnam Steel Plant (VSP). It was reported in these columns a few days ago that two Air Separation Units (ASUs) erected by ALIH at VSP were lying idle since 2013 even as oxygen has become a critical resource in the present second wave of Covid.
The RINL workers‘ union on Monday wrote to Pradhan and said that despite stiff resistance from the trade unions, the then Union government in 2009, forcefully allowed the French Company, Air Liquid Holding Pvt Ltd, to use investments to build, own and operate a plant to produce oxygen and nitrogen in Visakhapatnam Steel Plant. Accordingly, the Air Liquid Company had established the plant in Visakhapatnam Steel Plant with a production capacity of 1,700 tonnes per day. As per the MoU, the Company must sell its oxygen and nitrogen to Visakhapatnam Steel Plant only for a period of 15 years after which the company must be handed over to Visakhapatnam Steel Plant.
But the management of Air Liquid Company has kept the company idle for nine years after the completion of construction. It has not produced and supplied a single tonne of oxygen and nitrogen till now due to litigation since its inception on the pretext of low profits, said Steel Plant Employees’ Union president J Ayodhyaram. He added that the Air Liquid Company has demanded an amount much higher than the cost of building the company from VSP. This would not have occurred if Visakhapatnam Steel Plant was given permission to build the Air Separation Unit.
All this loss has occurred because of the faulty policy of allowing a foreign company to construct Air Separation Plant2 at VSP in 2009. After several international arbitrations, the judgment was delivered on April 2, 2021, that the company must start its trial run from May 2021. But the Air Liquid Company has not taken any steps in this direction so far.