Chief Minister Jayalalithaa on Sunday slammed the Centre’s decision to divest five per cent stake in the Neyveli Lignite Corporation (NLC) which, she said, showed that “signalling to the financial markets had taken precedence over the welfare of thousands of workers and concerns of the people of Tamil Nadu.”
The Chief Minister, in a letter to the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, said, “The Central government’s hasty and poorly reasoned actions have left the Government of Tamil Nadu facing entirely avoidable potential labour unrest which could further exacerbate the difficult power situation in the State,” she said.
She urged for a rethink on the disinvestment decision cleared by the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs overlooking the concerns of a negative fallout and rejecting the alternatives that had been suggested in her letter of May 23 - that Neyveli Lignite be delisted after buying back the 6.44 per cent public stake or the Securities Contracts (Regulation) Rules, 1957, amended to give a special exemption for NLC.
Expressing “deep disappointment” at the Centre dismissing the two proposed alternatives, Ms. Jayalalithaa wanted those options reconsidered to retain the public sector character of the NLC. “The Government of India appears to have placed the immediate possibility of raising just Rs. 466 crore by the sale of shares, above the aspirations of the people of Tamil Nadu to maintain intact the public sector character of NLC without any dilution.”
Bringing into question the timing of the decision given the recent fall in the share markets and wondering whether the true value of a profitable Navaratna PSU could be realised in the circumstances, Ms. Jayalalithaa cautioned the Centre that “the future should not judge the Central government as having sold family jewels at throwaway prices.”
She also pointed out that contrary to the NLC management’s claim that trade unions and employees associations had been taken into confidence, the trade unions have announced agitations against the disinvestment decision.
Meanwhile, Union Minister of State for the Prime Minister’s Office V. Narayanasamy said the agitation against NLC disinvestment was simply a move to gain political mileage. ,” Justifying the move, he said it was nothing new since three to five per cent of shares in PSUs like ONGC, IOC and SAIL had been divested in the past.
Communist Party of India (Marxist) State secretary G. Ramakrishnan said the Centre’s justification that the money from disinvestment would be used for welfare schemes could not be accepted as it had provided tax cuts worth Rs. 5.75 lakh crore to MNCs and large corporates in this year’s budget.