In 2009, the then steel minister Virbhadra Singh had repeatedly announced that India would double steel production by 2012. That is, from 60 million tonnes in 2009 to 124 million tonnes in 2012. The year is about to end, but it looks like the government has conveniently forgotten the target set by the former minister.
The steel production in 2011 was at best 75 million tonnes, and it is unlikely to be more than 80 million tonnes this year, missing the 124-million- tonne target by a fair margin.
So who is to blame? Ravindra Deshpande, metals analyst, Elara Capital Securities Pvt Ltd, said: “At least for once, the entire blame cannot be put on the government, as the economic scenario took its toll. But yes, the production could have been better than what it is right now, had the government been proactive in solving some of the sectoral issues.”
After the 2010 Supreme Court ban on iron ore mining in Karnataka, companies such as JSW Steel took a hit, as they had to scale down production. Besides, the delays in land acquisition as well as allocation of mine blocks forced companies to be on the defensive, as they did not to commit money unless the Centre showed interest.
ArcelorMittal and Posco are yet to begin construction of their respective steel plants, with a capacity of 12 million tonne each.
The mega memorandums of understanding (MoU) signed by the Karnataka government with steelmakers have not seen any progress either, as captive iron ore mines now seem a distant dream in the state. NMDC’s first ever joint venture steel plant with Russia’s Severstal is stuck as none of the two is ready to give up majority shareholding.