Emphasising the Ministry of Steel’s role as a bridge between the steel industry, Railways and Defence sectors, Dharmendra Pradhan, the Union Minister for Steel and Petroleum & Natural Gas, called for a strategic paper highlighting the specific long- term requirements of these two sectors for the purpose of drafting an action plan with the steel industry for “domestic fulfilment of their requirements”.

Further, speaking about reducing imports, the minister emphasised on zero imports in Railways and the Defence sector and further encouraged the domestic industry to produce special steels as per its requirements to support indigenisation.

The minister observed that Japan and Korea which earlier used to import raw materials and then produce value-added steel for exports, are experiencing rising cost of production. “Hence, it is an opportune time for the Indian industry and the ministry to create an action plan for production of value-added steel for fulfilment of domestic and international demand, going forward,” he added.

The minister was speaking at a workshop, “Indian Steel: Fostering Steel Usage in Railways & Defence Sectors,” organised by the Ministry of Steel in association with the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) in New Delhi recently.

The key objective of the workshop was to have an in-depth discussion with Railways and Defence to identify gaps and opportunities available in the supply of steel and steel products to both sectors.

Addressing the workshop, Pradhan said that, apart from having strategic implications, there are immense economic and social implications of enhanced steel usage across Railways and Defence. He said this will also help in the creation of jobs.

The minister stressed upon the need to develop an ecosystem for start-ups that will support production of special steels and urged investors and industry to come together in the nation’s interest.

Pradhan also stressed upon the importance of the Steel Import Monitoring System (SIMS) in identifying imports for the end-use sector and reiterated that this data will enable the domestic steel industry in creating an action plan to manufacture specific steel domestically.

He said, “Our government has launched a mission named ‘Har Kaam Desh Ke Naam’. Every work we undertake must be towards building a stronger and more prosperous New India.”

Pradhan also released the “Safety Guidelines for Iron & Steel Sectors” on the occasion to ensure a zero-accident workspace for the steel sector.

Senior officials of the Railway Board and the Dedicated Freight Corridor Corporation of India Ltd emphasised on the importance of steel for the railways sector. In the previous year, Indian Railways consumed 7 MT of steel and witnessed a 17% increase as compared to the previous year. Indian Railways’ plans of decongestion through multi-tracking, high-speed projects and concentrated focus on 58 super-critical projects are expected to increase the demand at a higher pace. In addition, Dedicated Freight Corridor projects are expected to consume 17 MT of steel in the next five years. The workshop also witnessed the signing of an MoU between Indian Railways and SAIL for domestic fulfilment of forged axels and wheels.

The Indian Army, Navy and Air Force along with DRDO and the Ordinance Factory spoke about the great potential for domestic fulfilment of special steel alloy requirements in the Defence sector and welcomed the Ministry’s efforts to act as a bridge between buyer and supplier. However, special emphasis was laid on the quality of the special steel alloys required in Defence.

The Defence sector also emphasised the need for concentration on value instead of volume and reiterated the importance of research in metallurgy and increased utilisation of rare earth metals for the sector.

A memorandum of understanding (MoU) was also signed between Ordnance Factories and SAIL to facilitate domestic fulfilment of steel requirement.

Binoy Kumar, Secretary Steel, in his address, laid emphasis on ensuring quality and competitiveness of steel in line with increased steel usage. He stated that the ministry will soon incorporate more steel products under the current quality control order. He also assured that import dependence and uncertainty around strategic steel requirements will be dealt with, and measures will be taken to reduce them.