Sunday, Oct 02, 2022
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Let The Good Times Roll

One year later, Balco workers are happy, production is on track, even Ajit Jogi's smiling

Let The Good Times Roll Jitender Gupta

Unless you've driven down the dusty, potholed roads of Chhattisgarh to reach the sleepy town of Korba, chances are you'll miss the second chapter of the controversial disinvestment story of the Bharat Aluminium Corporation Ltd (Balco). Or, unless you've seen the tireless, sweaty face of foreman Raghubir Singh Yadav. He's one of the estimated 6,500 workers of the 37-year-old company who have—in a unique gesture to compensate for a 67-day strike last year opposing privatisation—volunteered to work overtime for free till the plant records 100 per cent operational output.

One year after the Centre's first big-ticket privatisation (divesting 51 per cent of Balco for $125 million or Rs 551.5 crore to the London-based Anil Aggarwal's Sterlite Industries), it's this very positive attitude of the workers that's helping the aluminium maker sharpen its nails in the stiff competition with the other two major producers of the metal—the Kumarmangalam Birla group's Hindalco with 2,42,000 tonnes, and the state-owned National Aluminium (Nalco) with 2,30,000 tonnes. By quadrupling its annual capacity to 1,30,000 tonnes, Balco has jumped to third place—the ultimate plan is to reach four lakh tonnes. (India is now almost self-sufficient in aluminium with domestic production of nearly 6,18,000 tonnes a year).

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