Andhra Pradesh

VSP privatisation well-considered: Centre

A view of the Andhra Pradesh High Court building.   | Photo Credit: V. Raju

The Union government, in its affidavit on the privatisation of the Visakhapatnam Steel Plant (VSP), has informed the Andhra Pradesh High Court that VSP is not a strategic enterprise as the iron and steel sector has not been classified as “strategic” under the New Public Sector Enterprise Policy for Atmanirbhar Bharat, and that the employees’ rights are not fundamental and not constitutionally mandated as such. The policy provided for privatisation of the Public Sector Enterprises (PSEs) in the non-strategic sectors, wherever feasible, and closure of others, the affidavit said.

The decision to privatise the VSP was taken by the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) on January 27, 2021, keeping the larger public good in view, and it included the protection of interests of the employees and other stakeholders, the Union government stated.

The affidavit was submitted by Assistant Solicitor General N. Harinath on behalf of Rajesh Kumar Singh, Under-Secretary of the Department of Investment and Public Asset Management (DIPAM), in response to a petition filed by V.V. Lakshmi Narayana, former Joint Director of the Central Bureau of Investigation.

The affidavit said that the definitive agreements pertaining to disinvestment of a Central PSE provide an obligation on the new shareholder to not retrench, or terminate employees without any cause, and to not reduce their benefits.

The Centre maintained that the process of disinvestment was a policy decision involving complex economic factors.

The in-principle approval of 100% disinvestment of VSP was a well- considered plan, which was thoroughly deliberated, and the CCEA was assisted by highly qualified bureaucrats who knew the intricacies thereof, the affidavit made it clear.

The decision to put the Union government’s stake in VSP on sale was taken on the basis of the recommendations of NITI Aayog, which was tasked with studying the strategic sectors and the units to be considered for privatisation, merger, or conversion into subsidiaries of other PSEs, or their closure.

As held by the Supreme Court, such decisions cannot be struck down on the mere ground of availability of other options, the Central government observed, insisting that the PIL was a part of the petitioner’s political agenda.

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Printable version | Sep 20, 2021 4:07:32 PM |

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