What ails MCCL
By C.F. Lyngdoh
In the last few months, serious questions were raised by the State Government about how to revive the operations of MCCL in order to bring the organisation back into a healthy and profitable unit for the economic benefit of the areas surrounding the cement plant and for the state in general. The options before the government as it appeared from the newspapers are three in number:-
- That the state government would continue to run the unit
- To enter into a joint venture with a reliable cement manufacturing company and
iii. To privatise MCCL completely.
But what actually caused MCCL, a reputed unit of the state started in 1966 to turn into a sick unit at the turn of the century? The answer is ‘Human failure’ at all levels right from the top management, down to the lowest categories of employees. It is in the written records of MCCL that way back in 1974 (after Meghalaya attained Statehood) even the Minister of Industry (L) S.D.D Nichols Roy and eminent Directors like SL Khosla IAS, R. Natarajan IAS, (L) Herbert Suchiang IA & AS among other bureaucrats took time to visit Mawmluh Sohra – as members of the Board of Directors every month to attend the monthly coordination committees of MCCL in connection with the completion and commissioning of the expansion project of the cement plant. Earlier to this, eminent politicians like (L) Maham Singh took time off as the then MLA of Sohra to hold meetings between MCCL and the Laitryngew coal suppliers to sort out the problems of coal supply. Does the MCCL Board continue to hold such coordination meetings? Or is the MLA of Sohra trying to find a solution to the problem? We are not aware of such developments. While we cannot expect the Minister of Industries or the bureaucrats to go to the site every month in view of their multifarious responsibilities but surely, the Minister of Industries the Chairman of MCCL and the MD of MCCL are duty bound to take a prompt decision to revive MCCL after thorough discussions with the stake holders – The Sohra Syiemship, the Mawmluh Durbar and the workers’ union.
The MCCL cement plant is located within the jurisdiction of Sohra Syiemship. The new dry process cement plant has been running for hardly ten years at an average of 20 percent of installed capacity i.e. very low utilisation which means it is almost like a new cement plant except for the effects of adverse weather conditions of the place. Under able and experienced hands it would take only a few months to bring back the plant into normal productive condition.
MCCL had been using the old wet processing technology like cement plants everywhere till the new dry processing technology was introduced in the last three decades of the 20th century gradually replacing the old wet processing in India as well, mainly to save fuel consumption, the vital factor for profitability. The manpower of MCCL has a long experience in running a wet processing plant but did not have the experience to run a dry cement plant; that is why the performance of MCCL went down horribly in recent years.
At the initial stage of MCCL (in 1966) the MCCL management under (L) PH Trivedi (IAS) and (L) MD Rapthap IAS engaged ACC (Associated Cement Company) as consultants. Subsequently, most of the key technical posts were filled up with personnel experienced in ACC Cement plants and nobody complained about their appointment because the local people understood the necessity thereof. Gradually the local engineers, technicians and up to the lowest categories of workers picked up the skills and obtained adequate experience and were able to take over the posts as they fell vacant. MCCL then also sent several of its personnel including Assistant Engineers, Chemists etc for training in the ACC plants expecting them to become fit enough to take over charge when the time came.
Even with no assurance from any of the stakeholders, the MCCL management can run the plant. There is a cement plant in Changsari, Assam which runs on limestone from Mawlong, Shella and other areas and it is quite profitable. So, the MCCL plant can also function effectively and profitably by taking supplies of raw material from sources like Mawlong, Shella etc.
The true picture of MCCL clearly indicates that the first option i.e., for the State Government to manage exclusively with the existing manpower, would be futile even by appointing a few experienced personnel from outside.
The third option – to privatise the entire management and operations at the works would create several problems which will hamper the smooth working of MCCL.
However, the second option – to have a joint venture with some reliable cement companies appears to be unavoidable for the revival of MCCL operations and performance. The people want to see positive and quick action and not to have to wait till the monsoon sets in, which will hamper all sincere efforts to re-commission the units which have been lying idle since the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020. What decision shall be taken by the State Government is what the public want to see.