House panel slams welfare policy of SAIL's Rourkela Steel Plant

NEW DELHI: In a scathing report, a Parliamentary committee on labour criticised state owned steel maker Steel Authority of IndiaBSE 0.78 % for its "callousness and gross injustice" towards families of 18 former employees. 

SAIL's 
Rourkela Steel Plant is accused of refusing jobs to families whose members died while employed at the plant, though not necessarily at work. The Maharatna PSU has been told it "failed miserably to exert any control on the welfare policies implemented by plants under its control." 

The committee, chaired by 
Dara Singh Chauhan, Lok Sabha member from Bahujan Samaj Party, reminded the company that "charity begins at home." If it could adopt 16 villages as per its social corporate responsibility, it should not have allowed 18 families to suffer for 20 years. 

SAIL's concern that this may open a Pandora's Box was unacceptable to the group of Parliamentarians. "A government of a welfare state should not unduly be concerned about profits," it said. 

SAILBSE 0.78 % is owned 80% by the government, while the remaining stake is with domestic and foreign institutional investors. 

In September 2011, SAIL issued uniform guidelines for all its plants, by amending certain policies which it felt were faulty. 

"SAIL, however, chose to remain a mute spectator for a long time before issuing uniform guidelines for all its plants in September 2011, only after irreparable damage and injustice had already been done," the report said. 

Until 1992 Rourkela Steel plant considered on compassionate ground only those dependents of deceased employees who had passed their matriculation. The other clauses were that the deceased employees were not punished for any major misdemeanor in five years or had spent ten years in the company. 

The report noted that the company had disqualified a widow with a small child a job, only because she was not a matriculate. "Such criteria smacked of non-humanitarian approach," the report said. 

Under pressure from its unions in 1996, the plant agreed to consider relatives of those of who had died either from kidney failure, heart strokes or cancer. 

SAIL Employee's Family Benefit Scheme has also been dismissed as "a mockery of compassion". 

Under the scheme dependents can claim the monthly salary (based on the last pay) of the deceased or someone rendered permanently and totally disabled only if the family deposited an amount equal to the provident fund and gratuity with SAIL. 

The steel ministry has been asked to issue appropriate directions to recognise the fair claims of the 18 affected parties within three months.