Union minster of steel Beni Prasad Verma may not have fulfilled the promise of setting two Steel Processing Units in Gonda, his Lok Sabha constituency. But his ministry did not let him down as far as appeasing areas connected to him is concerned.
Here’s a sample: Of 1,000 members of Steel Consumers Council (SCC) nominated by the steel ministry since 2011, at least 451 belonged to Gonda, (Beni’s constituency), Barabanki (his native district), and Bahraich (the district whose Kaiserganj seat he earlier represented in Lok Sabha and wished to contest from this time too).
According to information collected under RTI Act from the ministry, 288 of these members hailed from Gonda, 82 from Barabanki and 81 from Bahraich. Only 197 were nominated from states other than UP.
As many as 718 members in SCC were nominated on January 24, January 31 and February 1 —- less than a fortnight before Verma called them for a meeting at Lucknow’s Taj Hotel on February 3. And, the tenure of this SCC was fixed for just over a month — ending March 13.
Of these 718, only 24 were from outside UP. Of those from UP, most hailed from Gonda, Barabanki and Bahraich districts.
When called for the meeting, these nominated members, referred to as non-official members, were paid for their stay and journey to and from Lucknow, a cellphone and a bag. The list of members provided by the ministry include many Congress politicians, and several journalists.
In the meeting, Verma spoke about the efforts to increase industrial growth and development in UP. He said, 10 Steel factories were being set up, including one each in Gonda, Barabanki and Bahraich. Each plant was coming up at a cost of approximately Rs 100 crore and will provide employment to 200 people, he said.
The SCC members’ duties are to “advise and assist the Council on matters relating to supply of iron and steel to consumers in their area”, to “bring to the notice of the Council grievances of the consumers in their area, and to “suggest to the Council improvements in the local distribution system of the main producers”.
Among the few privileges given to the SCC members is that they are issued entry passes for their occasional visits to Udyog Bhawan. These non-official members are nominated by the Ministry of Steel.
Besides the Steel Minister (chairman), secretary, Ministry of Steel (vice-chairman), the other official members of the SCC include the representatives of various industry associations, major producers of steel and iron, state and UT governments, ministries of railways, coal, mines, power, departments of Commerce, Industrial Policy and Promotion and Revenue, and Development Commissioner for Small Scale Industries.
Verma was made the Steel Minister in 2011. When contacted over phone, he said Bahraich, Gonda and Barabanki are backward districts so the Ministry of Steel gave priority to them including in doing works under Corporate Social Responsibility. Verma said these districts also have a huge steel’s rural dealership so they have large number of consumers. About distribution of gifts at the meeting, Verma said the delegates coming to attend meetings are often provided some gifts and it was not done for the first time by him.