Pleas to withdraw strike fail to cut any ice

Already in the thick of an indefinite strike, trade union leaders of the Neyveli Lignite Corporation began a fast unto death at “Q” bridge in the Neyveli Township on Saturday.

Only the office-bearers of the recognised and registered trade unions, numbering 177, are on a fast on the 11th day of indefinite strike voicing protest against the Centre’s proposal to divest five per cent of NLC shares.

Neither the Madras High Court order to withdraw the strike nor the plea of the NLC Chairman-cum-Managing Director B. Surender Mohan to resume duty or the conciliatory proceedings initiated by the officials of the Central Labour Commission could deter the trade union leaders from proceeding with the hunger-strike. Soon after the hunger strike began the NLC corporate office here received a communication from the Coal Ministry to the effect that when the Centre and the State government have seized of the stake sale issue and the modalities for the share transfer are being worked out the trade unions need not persist with the strike.

As such, the Coal Ministry felt that the trade unions could as well end the strike and resume work. When the NLC Chairman called the trade union leaders on Saturday forenoon to the Neyveli House to convey the Coal Ministry’s message, the union leaders took a short break from the hunger strike and lent a patient ear to the Chairman.

General Secretary of the Labour Progressive Front (NLC unit) S. Rajavanniyan said that the union leaders told the Chairman that “only after the launching of the indefinite strike the Securities and Exchange Board of India has climbed down from its high pedestal to consider the State government’s offer to pick up the shares on offer.”

However, as nothing concrete had emerged from the talks they could not give up the strike midway, Mr. Rajavanniyan said. Secretary of the Anna Workers and Staff Union Rama. Udayakumar said that neither the seller (the Centre) nor the buyer (the State government) had issued any official communication about the clinching of the share deal. Mr. Udayakumar said, “Until any affirmative action is taken in this regard and until due direction comes from the high command (read AIADMK leader) the indefinite strike as well as the hunger-strike would continue.”

Chidambaram constituency MLA K. Balakrishnan who addressed the fasting union leaders said that he could not understand the logic behind the Centre’s move to sell five per cent of the NLC shares at Rs. 466 crore (now the market value is said to be Rs. 459 crore).

Grossly undervalued

He said, “The value of NLC shares is grossly undervalued. If the worth of five per cent share is Rs. 466 crore the net worth of the NLC would be only Rs. 9,320 crore. When this profitmaking Navratna company is investing thousands of crores on new projects the projected sale proceeds does not reflect the true value of the NLC.” Mr. Balakrishnan emphatically said that not even one per cent of shares would be allowed to be sold. All the political parties would soon meet to decide on the date for launching district-wide agitation in this regard, he added.

Steep drop

Meanwhile, electricity generation registered a steep drop of 440MW: or in other words it dipped to 2,050MW against the installed capacity of 2,490MW.

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