The House Lease Sangharsh Samiti took out a rally on 17 August demanding the implementation of the 6th phase of the Bhilai Steel Plant house lease scheme. The rally started at the main gate of the steel plant and, after passing through the different sectors, culminated in front of the residence of the CEO. More than 500 people along with cars, motor cycles, and autos participated in the rally. Rajendra Parganiha and Shyamlal Sahu from the Centre of Steel Workers played a leading role in organizing this rally. Workers of the Bhilai Steel Plant as well as former workers who are around 1500 in number are struggling for the implementation of the 6th housing scheme.
During the recession between 2001 and 2003 the Steel Authority of India had introduced the house lease scheme in all their units in order to compensate their losses. Under this scheme around 4500 workers in Bhilai obtained a 30 year lease on company quarters. In 2007-2008 various workers’ organizations as well as the Officers’ Association launched a struggle for the 6th phase of this house lease scheme, following which the Steel minister in the UPA government Ram Vilas Paswan announced at a meeting in Bhilai that the 6th phase would be implemented. However, it has not been implemented till date.
Under pressure from the rally on 17 August, the General Manager (Personnel) of the BSP came to the CEO’s residence where he heard the demands of the people and assured them that he would arrange a meeting with the Executive Director (P & A). An 11 member delegation of the House Lease Sangharsh Samiti met the ED on 19 August, who said that this matter was not within his jurisdiction but that he would forward a copy of their demands to the SAIL Board. It is noteworthy that the CITU, the officially recognized union by the BSP, was against the movement for this demand, and the attitude of the other unions was also wishy-washy. Around 1500 former workers are living in BSP quarters under the license system and they are the backbone of this movement. The representatives of the Sangharsh Samiti also met the local MP and people’s representatives in this regard. The MLA from Bhilai Nagar and Minister in the State government Prem Prakash Pandey has rejected the demand for the implementation of the 6th house lease scheme and has termed the movement for its demand as playing around with the people’s emotions.