The recent experience has firmly established that the positive correlation between GDP growth and consumption of steel that was strong only a few years back has slowed down appreciably. Non-steel sectors are contributing more to the growth of GDP. Similar is the case with regard to investment and steel consumption. While the share of GFCF as a % of GDP has been steadily declining from 31.7% in FY15 to 29.5% in FY17, the steel intensity in investment has also been moving southwards. As this trend is happening in the most critical phase of our economy when capacity augmentation plans especially under brown field expansion by the steel majors are underway, there is a big challenge to achieve a quantum jump in steel use in the country that the NSP 2017 has envisaged from the current level of 83.5 MT in FY17 to around 230 MT in FY31. This aspect brings back the central theme of steel promotion in the country.
Promoting a product like steel involves taking into consideration a whole gamut of relevant factors beginning from the knowledge of the product – its metallurgical, mechanical and chemical properties and applications gathered out of experience, studies, research and use, disseminating that knowledge among the target segments – the students of engineering colleges, the faculties, the professionals in architecture, structural engineering and the policy planners including government agencies. They are the ambassadors for steel who would advise the users to use steel in various applications in the most cost effective and optimum manner. It is imperative that along with short-term modules for conducting training programmes spanning for 2-4 days on the advantages of steel use compared to alternate materials like RCC, aluminium and plastic, the students of metallurgy and material science, mechanical, electrical, civil, environment science need to be exposed to the various uses of steel.
Annual competitions of steel designs on a contemporary topic for the architecture and civil and structural engineering students would generate massive enthusiasm among these early birds to promote the cause of steel when they choose design and consultancy in their careers. There is a strong case to introduce steel orientation in the undergraduate civil engineering courses by making two semesters on steel in place of one semester. This change in syllabus by AICTE, MHRD and IITs would make a sea change in the attitude, orientation and quality of the engineering students towards more steel use.
It has been the experience that young engineers and professionals, junior engineers in various government departments including railways, CPWD, PWD, PHED, urban development ministries including housing, road and surface transport, shipping, civil aviation, defence, rural development need to be trained through short-term modular courses on steel design as per latest codes and standards, fabrication, erection, connection, steel properties, profile range, supply capabilities of indigenous manufacturers and familiarity with the BIS and NBC codes. These groups of young engineers working at important government departments engaged in executing a number of infrastructural construction projects are involved in selecting the EPC contractors in the open bids and monitoring the complete execution of the projects.
It is necessary that steel as a preferred choice of material gets a mention in the tender document in terms of life cycle analysis (LCA) which has already been incorporated in the general finance rules (GFR) as a criterion for selection of the material, thanks to the strenuous efforts by the ministry of steel. It is required that LCA included in the GFR must get percolated down to the tender clauses of the bids for all infrastructure and construction projects. It should remain as a mandatory criterion and not an optional one. Without this change, the construction companies willing to implement steel based or steel concrete composite designs would continue to settle for RCC structures to obtain the order.
Thus dissemination of knowledge of steel use, codes and design aspects through structured training programmes on a much wider scale in various government and related agencies for their engineers and technical officials is the dire need of the day. This should be accompanied by conferences/ workshops with architects and structural engineers at different parts of the country. Steel producers, ministry of steel and other stakeholders must lend a support to these efforts. It is a much more effective and sustainable action to convince these departments on more use of steel.
The impact of knowledge dissemination holds equally good for promoting steel use in rural areas. The masons, small contractors and local engineers influence the design methods and choice of material. They must be exposed to a day-long programme for knowledge of best use of TMT, bar bending techniques, choice of BIS-specified steel materials, best practices of construction and steel properties. These programmes are happening, but their reach and coverage must be expanded exponentially in a country like ours to make a visible impact on increased use of steel.
DG, Institute of Steel Growth and Development