Political parties in Tamil Nadu have called for withdrawal of the Union government’s decision to disinvest in Neyveli Lignite Corporation (NLC). The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs, on Friday, approved disinvestment of five per cent of the Centre’s equity stake in the NLC through Offer for Sale route, in accordance with regulations of the Securities and Exchange Board of India.

Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam president M. Karunanidhi appealed to the Union government to cancel the decision in deference to his earlier requests and the suggestions made by Chief Minister, Jayalalithaa, in her letter to the Prime Minister on May 23.

Quoting from his letter of May 26 to his party cadre, the DMK leader said that the move to disinvest in NLC, a Navaratna public sector undertaking, would mean antagonising the people of Tamil Nadu unnecessarily. The Centre, he said, could take into consideration Ms. Jayalalithaa’s suggestion of either amending the relevant rules to exempt NLC from disinvestment or remove it from the list of PSUs chosen for disinvestment.

General secretary of Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, Vaiko, wondered what the government would achieve by realising Rs 466 crore from the proposed disinvestment in an undertaking that generated an annual profit of Rs 1400 crore. The real intention, he alleged, was to privatise NLC progressively. Privatisation would mean that Tamil Nadu would have to pay more for the power got from NLC.

Disinvestment would tantamount to killing the goose that laid golden eggs, said Pon. Radhakrishnan, State president of the Bharatiya Janata Party.

It would be a grave mistake to hand over national assets like the NLC to the private sector, he said.

The State unit of All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC) criticised the Union government for going back on its promise of not resorting to disinvestment in profit-making PSUs, made in the Common Minimum Programme. General secretary T. M. Murthi strongly criticised the decision in spite of its protest and appeals made by the former and present Chief Ministers. It felt that it was the democratic duty of the residents of Cuddalore district and employees of NLC to agitate against the decision. It was not fair on the part of the Collector to have clamped prohibitory orders under Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code in the district, it said and appealed to the Chief Minister to intervene to get the ban order lifted.