What once was a state-of-the-art steel plant of Vikash Metal and Power in Poradiha village in this district of West Bengal is now a ghost of itself. The plant, which used to employ 5,000 people at one point, is guarded by policemen to prevent whats remaining from being stolen.
A little flashback might help understand what happened. In its annual report for 2011-12, the Kolkata-based steel maker said it was a victim of robbery at the Poradiha plant. Among what was taken away were a factory shed, heavy machinery used to make steel rods and stocks worth crores of rupees.
For the year ended June 30, 2012, the company clocked in a revenue of Rs 476 crore and a loss of Rs 179 crore. Over half the loss was an exception item, loss due to robbery, according to the report. At the moment, the curious case of Vimal Patni, promoter of Vikash Metal, is one of the most talked about stories in the area.
The plant is under the jurisdiction of Santuri police station and Sekhar Mitra, officer-in-charge, extends some help to understand what happened. The plant was closed in October 2011 but the story goes back further. Since early 2011, promoters had cut down on production. Workers were told not to work inside the plant but only lurk around the facility, said Mitra.
According to him, some miscreants caught stealing from the plant were found to be company workers. We carried out raids and made some recovery but investigation revealed many thieves were comforted by the promoters and were propelled by them to carry out wrongful activities.
Locals claimed the promoters had lost interest in the facility.
Interestingly, the promoter group held nearly 59 per cent in the company at the end of December 2010 but brought it down to around 15 per cent, according to the December 2012 quarter filing. It was the last shareholding pattern filing by Vikash Metal. Moreover, around 68 per cent of the shares are pledged with lenders.
The lead bankers for Vikash Metal are Bank of India, Union Bank of India and IDBI Bank and they had, about a month ago, put out a possession notice at the plant with the intent of taking over the property soon. The notice has been kept safe in the police station, said Mitra.
The promoter group consists of Vimal Kumar Patni, 63, and sons Vikash Patni and Akash Patni. The company could not be reached for comments. We are putting out our men and agency sourced guards at the plant, but it requires fees and despite several communications made to company officials, they havent paid a single penny. This clearly shows they do not care about the plant, added Mitra.
A local resident said, There are two other plants, Mark Steel and Vision Sponge in the vicinity but they are not facing any problems.