“Last four years have been trendsetting in terms of innovation in every area of governance”: Shri Chaudhary Birender Singh
How would you define the last 48 Months of Transforming India under the leadership of PM Narendra Modi with regards to scale, speed and innovation?
Well, one word that can do justice to all the three parameters is, “Unprecedented”.
Talking of scale, the mere number of schemes and beneficiaries speak for themselves. Aadhaar is world’s largest biometric database project. Hon’ble Prime Minister inaugurated India’s longest road tunnel in J&K and India’s longest Bridge Dhola Sadia in Assam. This month only he laid the foundation stone for Asia’s longest two-lane tunnel. Many more examples can be added. The point is that our Government does everything on a bigger and larger scale.
Speed, both in taking decisions and their implementation, is visible in each and every policy initiative of our Government. You take any sector and we can find the speed in action. Road construction, LPG connection distribution, village electrification, power generation are just few of these sectors where speed is the key driver of transformation.
As for innovation, last four years have been trendsetting in terms of innovation in every area of governance. Jan-dhan Yojana was a classic example, which empowered the poor by linking them to mainstream banking. BHIM App is another example where cashless transactions aim at transparency and speed of transaction, apart from enabling the use of technology by the masses. “Swachh Bharat” campaign showcases how linking a simple idea of toilet construction into a mass movement can bring about social change and transform our hinterlands.
So, scale, speed or innovation, our Government has demonstrated how thinking big and afresh on these aspects can lead to transformative changes in the society and economy.
What are the most impactful initiatives and schemes of the Ministry/Ministries led by you?
Steel is the backbone and foundation of infrastructure of any country. Steel industry has a strong multiplier effect of nearly 1.4X on GDP and of 6.8X on employment. It has strong forward and backward linkages and is of strategic importance to any industrialized nation.
Talking of initiatives, two Policies were rolled out in 2017. These are “National Steel Policy 2017” and Policy for preference to “Domestically Manufactured Iron & Steel Products” in Government projects. Both the policies have received very good responses from key stakeholders.
Awards for Secondary Steel Producers have been instituted, which are first of its kind to recognise their contribution.
A national-level contest “My LOVE STEEL Idea” was organised to invite fresh business ideas based on steel and the winning entries came from different parts of India. Young, vibrant and enterprising youth took keen interest in ideas of using steel for developmental needs.
Ministry of Steel is the leading Ministry in terms of BIS quality certifications of the products. More than 80 % of steel products are now covered under Quality Orders and we are moving towards a 100 % quality regime.
Auto-shredding Plant, Metal Mandi, and e-Rakam are other good initiatives by our PSU MSTC. Steel from SAIL has been used in several projects of national importance.
There is a continuous and sustained focus on modernization & expansion of steel plants to make them globally competitive and to enhance value-added steel production. This has led to India becoming world’s second largest steel producer in first three months of 2018, leaving behind Japan.
How would you measure the success and reach of these initiatives and schemes?
Figures speak for themselves. More than 30 million tonnes steel production capacity in the last four years, with capacity of 102 million tonnes in 2013-14, increased to a level of 134 million tonnes in 2017-18. Crude steel production crossed the level of 100 million tonnes, with an annual growth rate of 4 % in last year alone. It was 82 million tonnes in 2013-14 and it has risen to a level of 102.19 million tonnes in 2017-18. Exports of steel products have more than doubled in last two financial years from a level of 4.1 million tonnes in 2015-16 to 9.6 million tonnes in 2017-18. Imports have been brought down by around one-third in the same period from 11.7 million tonnes to 7.48 million tonnes. Steel consumption registered a remarkable annual growth of 7.8 % in last financial year. Per capita consumption of finished steel increased from 58 kg in 2014 to 65 kg in 2017.
Our steel companies have put in special efforts to take steel to far-off corners of the country, especially in North-eastern states. DMI&SP Policy has strengthened the “Make in India” momentum in the steel sector. MSTC has been enabling “Digital India” and “Clean India” missions through its platforms and initiatives. Emphasis on continuously improving the quality of steel products has facilitated the availability of steel, which is good for the health and safety of steel users.
When you assumed office, what were the key challenges faced in the sector relevant to the Ministry/Ministries led by you? How did you overcome those challenges and achieve the goal of last mile delivery of governance?
When our Government took charge in 2014, the steel industry was in dire straits and struggling for survival. We took a series of bold & timely initiatives which led to resurgence and revival of the Indian Steel Sector.
One key challenge was that imports were increasing uncontrollably and dumping of low quality steel was being done by other countries. Our Government imposed Minimum Import Price and Anti-dumping duties to curb these unfair trade practices by foreign steel companies, and to provide a level playing field to Indian steel producers. This resulted in India becoming a net exporter of steel for last two years.
Steel sector was also cited as an example of bad loans and NPAs. We coordinated with the Ministries concerned and made our recommendations about resolution plans from time to time. I am happy to see that resolution of Bhushan Steel stressed assets problem is almost complete now and it is one of the first such assets being resolved through new policy regime.
Quality of Steel products being sold in the market was another long-standing challenge. We worked in a mission mode to tackle this challenge. And now Ministry of Steel is the leading Ministry at the Centre, with maximum BIS certifications. Almost 80% steel products in the country are covered under Quality Control Orders. These prohibit production and import of substandard steel products. This ensures better health & safety standards for end-users. These quality control orders have enabled small steelmakers to compete with large steel players.
Raw Material security is a persistent challenge. We took several steps towards enhancing raw material security. These include working for setting up coking coal washeries, exploring the possibility of methanol as fuel, scrap-based steel plants, enhancing domestic production of high-quality iron ore and coking coal etc. This enabled Indian steel producers to withstand the vagaries of global markets enabled by support for raw material sourcing, better quality production, and steel exports.
India had a recurring challenge in the form of low per capita steel consumption. We have been able to change the trend and there is significant increase in consumption. Our initiatives like holding regular meetings of Steel Consumer Council, organising brainstorming sessions with key stakeholders, conducting regional conferences on enhancing steel consumption, meeting customers of steel products and creating awareness about advantages of using steel have been instrumental in bringing about this upturn.
Another challenge was the complacency that had set in the sector. We have been successful in bringing back the vibrancy and dynamism in the sector. Steel companies are now thinking in terms of diversifying into new product categories and usages of steel. They are exploring new international markets for their steel products by diversifying into new regions and countries.
You must have met with many citizens across the country who have largely benefited from the initiatives taken up by Ministry/Ministries led by you…. Could you detail some of the memorable experiences and untold stories shared by citizens?
Awards for secondary steel producers, which are being given this year are a result of such interactions. During various meetings with representatives of secondary steel sector, their consistent view was that they felt sidelined. The idea of introducing Awards in line with those for primary steel producers emerged from such interactions and the concept has been well received by the industry.
Then people often used to tell me that there are no major steel plants in states where there are no mines. That was a fact. We then thought of exploring the feasibility of setting up scrap-based steel plants and MECON was asked to carry out detailed studies on this to set up steel plant in North & West India. MSTC is setting up an auto-shredding plant, which can provide raw material for such steel plants. So regular interactions with stakeholders led to these out-of-the-box solutions.
I will share two stories which show the transformation that Modi Government is bringing about through its policies and initiatives.
After demonetization, villagers came to me and told that the tables have been turned and rich people with bags full of money are now chasing poor people, requesting them to deposit the money in their accounts.
In one of the awareness programmes on Ujjwala Yojana, one farmer shared with me how his 50-year old wife had passed away with respiratory problems and family was consoling itself by saying she was of old age. I pointed out that it was not age but chullah smoke and pollution which had taken her life away. With Modi Government striving to provide LPG to all households, such untimely deaths due to pollution will be a thing of the past, I told them.