Rita Singh, Chairman and Managing Director of Mesco Steel, having steel facility in Odisha, was reportedly not allowed to come out of the company guest house by agitating workers since Tuesday.
It required the intervention of top Jajpur district administration officials to ensure her release in Kalinganagar Industrial Complex (KIC) on Wednesday.
It is illegal. Entrepreneurs should get respect, said Ms. Singh later.
The workers who had allegedly confined Ms. Singh belonged to Maithan Ispat Limited, which was taken over by the Mesco Group in 2015. The workers alleged that they had not been paid their salaries and bonus for 11 months. Maithan Ispats 0.2 million tonne per annum capacity steel plant has not been functioning for months.
We are coming out with a financial model to resume production. If the plant runs again, everyone including labourers, contractors, transporters and employees will benefit. Steel industry is going through a bad phase and banks are not showing interest in funding projects, said Ms. Singh.
The company was said to have released only one months salary and assured to settle the outstanding amount after rounds of consultations.
Additional District Magistrate of Kalinganagar Santosh Mishra dismissed reports of any confinement. He said it was a dispute over payment of outstanding salary and the workers wanted to talk to the Mesco CMD directly.
The industry leaders said the incident was symptom of a deeper malaise. The KIC was conceived to encourage industrial houses to set up steel projects at a single location. The government had then assured infrastructure and raw material linkage for all the projects. The KIC was then symbol of Odishas industrial revolution, said Kalinganagar Industries Association president Purushottam Kandoi.
After a few years, the trend has just reversed. De-industrialisation has taken place in Kalinganagar. The government has failed to ensure captive iron ore mines and assured supply of raw material for the projects. It is unviable for steel industries to run plants by sourcing iron ore from open market, he said.
Of a dozen of steel plants established at KIC, only a couple of plants are functioning, he added.