Officers’ associations seem to be divided on this issue

The officers of Neyveli Lignite Corporation seem to be divided on the disinvestment issue.

Before plunging into any direct action, the NLC officers are weighing the pros and cons of the Centre’s proposal to disinvest five per cent of the NLC shares.

Unlike the trade union leaders who are keen on speedy action, the officers are not in a position to to react immediately or take any radical steps on any such issue pertaining to the company. There are at lest four associations of the officers, including that of the technical and non-technical staff, such as the NLC Graduate Engineers’ Association, the NLC Engineers Association (diploma holders), the National Graduate Engineers’ Association (diploma holders who had done part-time engineering courses) and the NLC Officials’ Association.

A spokesperson of the technical staff, on condition of anonymity, said that only when these associations take identical views on any particular issue all could put up a joint fight. He further said, “Of course, there exist two schools of thought: one supporting disinvestment and other opposing it.”

The pro-disinvestment group has taken the stand that all other public sector undertakings have complied with the stipulation of divesting 30 - 40 per cent of their shares.

But as far as the NLC is concerned, it has so far parted with only 6.44 per cent of shares and even with the proposed five per cent disinvestment, it will not cross 12 per cent. Such a notional disinvestment will not in any way alter the status of the NLC, the group avers.

The anti-disinvestment group holds the view that it is not the size of the disinvestment but it is a question of upholding the principle and virtue of the public sector undertakings.

The NLC, enjoying Navratna status and a profit making company, should not be bled through the route of stake sale.

In-house deliberations

When contacted, president of the NLC Graduate Engineers’ Association (GEA) I. Nedumaran told The Hindu that before taking any action it was customary for the associations to hold in-house deliberations.

“After taking a stand it would contact other associations to explore the possibility of taking join action. The GEA is yet to take the first step in this regard. If it gets any invitation from the trade unions it would certainly participate in the talks,” Mr. Nedumaran said.

In 2006 when the Centre tried to push through 10 per cent disinvestment, it was the GEA along with the Labour Progressive Front that spearheaded the agitation and defeated the Centre’s move, he recalled.

At that time what clinched the issue was the announcement made by Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam leader M. Karunanidhi that if the Centre persisted with the disinvestment proposal, the DMK Ministers would resign from the Cabinet.

“This time around, all the political parties have struck identical postures, opposing the disinvestment move, and it would certainly influence the thinking of the NLC officers,” he said.

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