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regular-article-logo Sunday, 16 June 2024

Part of moon mission, Heavy Engineering Corporation’s unheralded stare at stark reality in Ranchi

HEC’s website (under the ministry of heavy industries) claims it to be one of the leading suppliers of capital equipment for steel, mining, railways, power, defence, space research, nuclear and strategic sectors in the country. However, its workers claim non-payment of salaries for the last 19 months while engineers and officers have not received pay for over 21 months

Animesh Bisoee Published 26.05.24, 07:24 AM
Sitting MP Sanjay Seth in Ranchi.

Sitting MP Sanjay Seth in Ranchi. Manob Chowdhury

Engineers and workers in Ranchi are up in arms against their sitting MP from the BJP, who, they claim, has been unable to provide any concrete solutions to their problems.

“We were staunch supporters of the BJP till 2019 as we considered it a party that thinks about the welfare of Hindus. But not this time,” said Rana Singh (54), a crane operator in HEC (Heavy Engineering Corporation Limited) since 1995.

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At the gates of the ailing PSU’s administrative building in Ranchi’s Dhurwa area, over 50 workers shouted as one on Wednesday: “HEC ko bachana hai, Modi ko bhagana hai (To save HEC, get rid of Modi)”.

Rana added: “In the last few years we have understood that the BJP under Narendra Modi is bent on closing down government units and selling them to corporate entities. We are not going to vote for a BJP MP who only gives us assurances, without any concrete outcome.”

Congress candidate Yashaswini Sahay, a law graduate practising in Mumbai, campaigns in Ranchi.

Congress candidate Yashaswini Sahay, a law graduate practising in Mumbai, campaigns in Ranchi. The Telegraph

HEC’s website (under the ministry of heavy industries) claims it to be one of the leading suppliers of capital equipment for steel, mining, railways, power, defence, space research, nuclear and strategic sectors in the country. However, its workers claim non-payment of salaries for the last 19 months while engineers and officers have not received pay for over 21 months.

Narendra Kumar, a mo­ulder for the last 19 years, who works as a household electrician to meet expenses, said: “We have been protesting for the last few months demanding our outstanding salaries and revival of the company. We had seen several Union ministers visiting Ranchi to address rallies but none of them even remembered our problem. What is the use of voting for them?”

There are 1,600 workers and over 4,000 retired employees, besides 500-odd engineers and officers, who have been affected by HEC’s current condition. The decline of HEC — one of India’s oldest public sector units, set up in 1958 — both in employment numbers and in profits appears to have begun after the liberalisation of the 1990s. In 1992, during the term of Prime Minister PV Narasimha Rao, the company was referred to the Board for Industrial and Financial Reconstruction.

“HEC has been in the financial doldrums due to the central government’s insensitivity. HEC engineers constructed several parts of the second launching pad of Isro which was used for Chandrayaan-3 and Aditya L1 (solar mission). The Prime Minister took credit for the projects but did not think once about their plight,” said Majdoor Union president Bhawan Singh.

“We have lost hope in our MP (Sanjay Seth). At least Priyanka Gandhi raised our issue last Wednesday. Not only our workers, their families, too, are against the BJP.”

Ranchi has over 35% ST voters, 15% Muslim and 5% Christian convert voters. While Seth is eyeing a second term, pitted against him is Congress’s Yashaswini Sahay, daughter of former Union minister Subodh Kant Sahay.

Four Assembly segments — Silli, Ranchi, Hatia (under which most of HEC employees fall) and Kanke — are with the NDA, while Khijri (Congress) and Ichagarh (JMM) are with INDIA.

“HEC workers and their families would be the deciding factor in the Hatia segment while consolidation of tribal and Christian votes on the Sarna dharma code issue would play a key role in urban areas like Ranchi and Kanke,” a political Hindi columnist said.

“The announcement on the Sarna dharma code by Rahul Gandhi in the state has led to a consolidation of tribal voters for the Congress. Earlier, it used to be split between the BJP and Congress,” said Congress spokesperson Rakesh Sinha, considered close to Subodh Kant Sahay, who has won the seat thrice.

Ranchi voted on May 25

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