IISCO Steel Plant
|Public Sector Undertaking, a unit of Steel Authority of India|
|Industry||Iron & Steel|
|Rajesh Kumar Rathi (CEO)|
|Products||Structurals, Rods, Pig Iron|
Number of employees
Modernisation and expansion
The modernisation and expansion programme of IISCO steel plant was completed at a cost of over 16,000 crores.
Man Mohan Singh, Prime Minister, laid the foundation for the green field modernisation and expansion of IISCO Steel Plant at Burnpur on 24 December 2006. Others present on the occasion included Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, chief minister of West Bengal, Ram Vilas Paswan, union minister for chemicals & fertilisers and steel, and Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi, union minister for information & broadcasting.
It was dedicated to the nation by Narendra Modi, prime minister, at Burnpur on 10 May 2015. Others present on the occasion included Keshari Nath Tripathi, governor of West Bengal, Mamata Banerjee, chief minister of West Bengal, Narendra Singh Tomar, union minister of state for steel and mines, Vishnudeo Sai, union minster of state for urban development, and Babul Supriyo, member of parliament from Asansol.
IISCO Steel plant has state-of-the-art facilities at Burnpur. The main units are described below: 
Coke Ovens: Coke Oven Battery No. 10 has 78 ovens with a height of 4.5 m and COB No. 11 has 74 ovens with a height of 7 m. It has a dry cooling plant using inert gases.
Sinter Plant: Two sinter machines each with grate area of 204 m2
Blast Furnace: The 4,160 m3Blast Furnace Kalyani is one of the largest in the country. It uses high blast temperature, oxygen enrichment, high top pressure and pulverised coal injection technology.
Basic Oxygen Furnace: Three 150-tonne capacity BOFs to produce about 2.55 million tonnes of liquid steel annually. It is equipped with features like combined blowing and computerised operations.
Continuous Casters: Two 6-strand Billet Casters and one 4-strand Bloom-cum-Beam Blank Caster.
Rolling Mills : One Bar Mill and one Wire Rod Mill to produce 0.75 million tonnes of high quality bars and 0.5 million tonnes of wire rods per year. One Universal Section Mill to produce 0.6 million tonnes of universal section products per year.
Several attempts were made in India in the 18th and 19th centuries to produce iron and steel, but none of them succeeded. In 1870, James Erskine founded the Bengal Iron Works at a place which is now known as Kulti. The local people used to call it Kendwa karkhana. His open top blast furnaces using raw coal (instead of charcoal), poor grade iron ore available locally, and bullock carts for transportation, went into operation in 1875. It had two foundries for light and heavy castings. The plant closed down after three years of operations because there was no demand for its products. The government departments, such as the public works department, used iron castings and so they were interested. The plant was taken over by the government in 1881 and renamed Barakar Iron Works. In 1889, it was taken over by the newly formed Bengal Iron & Steel Co. In 1892, Martin & Company came in as managing agents. Around 1904, Bengal Iron & Steel Co. converted the open top furnaces into closed top furnaces, and installed facities for producing steel. The steel making facilities went into production but closed down after two years as the operations were unremunerative. In 1918, G.H.Fairhurst took over as general manager of Bengal Iron & Steel Co. By then the company was doing well and even exporting pig iron to Japan, the Far East, Mesopotamia and Russia, but the directors of the company, living in London, were not interested in expanding its business any further.
Iron Works at Hirapur
Sir Rajen Mookerjee, along with Sir Aquin Martin, had founded Martin & Co. and had a fairly good feel of the iron industry. G.H. Fairhurst was instrumental in drawing in Sir Rajen Mookerjee into a new venture. Promoted by Burn & Co., the Indian Iron and Steel Company was incorporated on 11 March 1918. The iron works were set up at Hirapur, then a small village on the Asansol-Adra line. The railway station was at a neighbouring village, Narsinghbandh. It had two blast furnaces each producing around 700 tonnes per day - the first blast furnace went into operation in 1922 and the second in 1924. Coke oven batteries were added. In the earlier stages, bullock carts were used for transportation in the plant. Amongst those who joined the company in the period were T.Leslie Martin (Sir Acquin’s son) and Biren Mookerjee, Sir Rajen’s son. He was knighted later. In 1926 the name of the company operating at Kulti was changed to Bengal Iron Company, and in 1936, it was merged with IISCO. G.H. Fairhurst was at the helm of affairs at Burnpur in the earlier days and was succeeded by H.V. Peeling, who served at Burnpur for about quarter of a century. In 1949, I.S. Puri succeeded H.V. Peeling.
From the earliest stages the company felt the need for captive iron ore and coal mines. Prospecting by R.Soubolle in Singhbhum and Manbhum led to the discovery of rich iron ore deposits. In 1901, Bengal Iron Company started mining iron ore in the Duia Mines at Pansiraburu, near Chiria, now in Singhbhum district of Jharkhand. Later mining shifted to Chiria under Manoharpur Ores Mines. Mining started at Gua, also in Singhbhum district, in 1923. The company also entered into coal mining operations at Chasnala, Jitpur (both in Jharia coalfield) and Ramnagar colliery near Kulti.
Steel Works at Napuria
The Steel Corporation of Bengal was incorporated on 20 April 1937 with Burn & Co. as managing agents. SCOB established steel making facilities at Napuria, adjacent to the Hirapur Works of IISCO. The new steel plant had an annual capacity of 250,000 tonnes of ingot steel, another 100,000 tonnes were added later. The steel works consisted of three 225-tonne tilting open hearth furnaces, soaking pits, a 40” blooming mill of one million tonne capacity, a 34” heavy structural mill and a 18” light structural mill. A sheet mill was added in 1940. The first heat of steel was tapped on 10 November 1939 and rolled subsequently. A duplex plant initially with two Bessemer converters (and subsequently another) was added. The first blow of the Bessemer converter was made on 6 February 1946. Martin and Burn companies formally merged in 1946 to form Martin Burn Limited.
The construction of the steel works brought in many new faces. W.Routledge was the resident engineer of the International Construction Company, the consulting engineers. G.M.Fox and R.T.Lintern became general managers of SCOB. F.W.A.Lahmeyer joined as chief engineer in 1950 and ultimately rose to the position of a general manager. Some senior officers were directly recruited in England. Amongst them was N.R.Dutt, who rose to be a director. John Mc Cracken spent around two decades at the helm of affirs at Burnpur. Sir Biren Mookerjee, as Chairman, led a very capable team for about 40 years. The activities evinced interest in people outside it. J.R.D. Tata was a distinguished visitor on 4 October 1944.
SCOB was amalgamated with IISCO on 1 January 1953. In the early fifties Tata Iron & Steel Company and IISCO were the only companies having integrated steel plants in India. It was estimated by a Technical Mission of the World Bank that steel demand in India would touch 6 million tonnes by 1960. Eugene Black, president of the World Bank, visited India in connection with the study of the Technical Mission. He also visited Burnpur. The rising demand for steel paved the way for expansion of IISCO. The foreign exchange component of the expansion programme was met with a loan from the World Bank. The expansion programmes were completed in 1956. Two coke oven batteries, two new blast furnaces, each with a capacity of 1,200 tonnes per day, additional open hearth furnaces (taking the total to seven), Morgan continuous billet mill and a continuous bar and rod mill were added along with many auxiliary facilities. The plant capacity was raised to 1 million tonnes of crude steel per annum.
Kulti Works of IISCO had grown to be a major foundry complex in stages. The light castings foundry was established in 1875, general castings shop in 1915, non-ferrous foundry in 1948, steel foundry and heavy mechanised foundry in 1958. The spun pipe plants (three in number) came up in 1944, 1958 and 1981. The iron making facilities were closed down at Kulti in 1958 and it was decided to supply foundry iron in liquid form from Burnpur. Thus the curtain came down on 83-year long tradition of iron making at Kulti.
While Sir Biren Mookerjee continued to lead with his old team, there were two prominent new faces: S.L.Bengston, head of the consulting firm ICC and S.L.Moffat, who was brought in from the USA to boost steel production. Amongst other people in senior positions at Burnpur and Kulti were S.W.Willet, A.E.Crawley, H.H.Drake, S.N.Gupta, J.A.Deshpande, S.K.Kanwar and Samar Sengupta.
The rise and fall
Production of crude steel at Burnpur rose sharply from 353,427 tonnes in 1953-54 to 914,159 tonnes in 1960-61. Production of ingot steel was 93.5% of the rated capacity in 1961-62. The next year, 1962-63, IISCO surpassed the million-tonne mark for the first time and the tempo of production continued in 1963-64 with a production of 1,026,786 tonnes. For the next two years the production hovered around 94.9% and 97.0%. In 1966-67, it dropped to 89.69%. During the period the production of spun pipes and foundry products at Kulti also reached new heights. It became the first Indian blue chip company to have its shares traded at the London Stock Exchange.IISCO owed its success in both production and profitability to the efficient top management team, who steered the company most effectively. And then it was the beginning of the period of labour unrest.
The first trade union was established in IISCO in 1944. Prof. Abdul Bari was associated with it in the earlier days. After Prof. Bari's death in 1947, Michael John led the trade union for some time. Gopeswar, who later became national president of the Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC), operated at Burnpur and was all along been associated with IISCO. The famous strike in 1953 led to the formation of Action Committee, which later emerged as a wing of the All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC). Since its split, the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) played a big role in IISCO affairs, their leaders being Chandrasekhar Mukherjee and Bamapada Mukherjee. Taher Hussein remained with AITUC. All the three had earlier been employees of the company. From March 1967 onwards the industrial relations in Burnpur and Kulti, along with other places in West Bengal, underwent dramatic changes. Strikes and go-slow tactics were resorted to in numerous departments, paralysing work in many areas. The newly invented intimidatory tactics of gherao was practiced against the management personnel on the flimsiest of pretexts. Even John McCracken faced severe humiliation.
Sir Biren Mookerjee said, “I see before my eyes a vast industrial complex with which I have been associated for nearly 40 years, crumbling to dust, not as a result of enemy action but by the senseless spirit of destruction of our own citizens. I have left no avenue unexplored to seek a way out of this impasse.” The company was sinking.
The Public Sector era
The Government of India took over the management of IISCO on 14 July 1972. The bill for the take over was piloted in parliament by Mohan Kumaramangalam, then union minister of steel & mines. Initially, M.P.Wadhawan, from Hindustan Steel, was custodian for a short time and then Arabinda Ray, from the private sector, was custodian in 1972-74. H.Bhaya, who was chairman of Hindustan Steel from 1972 to 1977, was also chairman of IISCO in 1974-1975. V.K.Dar, from the ministry of steel, was administrator in 1975-1977 and managing director in 1975-78. The shares of the company were acquired by the government in 1976. With the restructuring of the steel and allied companies in 1978, IISCO became a fully owned subsidiary of Steel Authority of India in 1979. Thereafter, the managing directors, from within SAIL, were D.R.Ahuja, S.Samarapungavan, K.R.Sangameswaran, M.F.Mehta, K.V.Pai and Nilotpal Roy.The Kulti Works of IISCO, which was earlier placed under SAIL Growth Works, was closed down in 2003.IISCO was amalgamated with SAIL in 2006 and renamed IISCO Steel Plant.
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