Karunanidhi rules out privatising TANCEM

CHENNAI, MAY 8. The Government has no proposal whatsoever to privatise any unit of the Tamil Nadu Cements Corporation Limited (TANCEM) including its Ariyalur cement plant, the Chief Minister, Mr.M.Karunanidhi asserted today, even as he turned the tables on the Opposition's charges on a `declining' industrial scenario in the State.

On the contrary, it was the previous AIADMK Government which had not only proposed to sell off all the six units of TANCEM in 1994, which had to be ``halted'' by the DMK then moving the High Court and getting an interim stay, Mr. Karunanidhi said replying to the debate on the demands for grants for major industries.

Quoting from the counter-affidavit then filed by the AIADMK Government, which had said that ``wherever possible, investment in public sector companies may be disinvested,'' Mr. Karunanidhi ridiculed the AIADMK leader, Ms. Jayalalitha's frequent statements now criticising the DMK on the TANCEM issue and the barbs by the party's group leader in the House, Mr. P. R. Sundaram.

With figures, Mr. Karunanidhi told the House that production in the Ariyalur cement plant had not declined in the last four years though, unlike private cement plants which had a lower wage structure, the TANCEM unit could not cut its production costs.

Allaying the CPI MLA, Mr. K. Subbaroyan's apprehensions about TANCEM's future being gravely at stake if contractors taking up PWD works were not required to source their cement compulsorily from State-run units, Mr. Karunanidhi said, ``we have not said that they should not buy from the Government.'' Only the price of `Arasu cement' (TANCEM's brand) did not compare favourably with that of private cement producers, he said.

However, in a bid to rectify this anomalous situation facing TANCEM, find ways to stimulate demand for its cement, and to go into other issues of improving, modernising and streamlining the Corporation's operations, the Government has constituted a committee headed by the Chief Secretary, he said. It has been asked to submit its recommendations in two weeks, he added.

Earlier, the TMC MLA, Mr. S. Azhagiri crossed swords with the Chief Minister, wondering how an incredibly low sum of just Rs. 14,000 was sought by the Government under the demand - ``Capital Outlay on Industrial Development''.

Asking whether with such measly amount any industrial development could take place, Mr. Azhagiri also made a fervent plea to Mr. Karunanidhi to reconsider the Government's modified order on giving just one year's time to existing industrial units undertaking diversification/expansion for availing the sales tax- based concessions, which are being phased out.

Mr. Karunanidhi reiterated that the Government could take another look at the G.O. if there was no adverse impact for it. But the Cabinet had taken that decision, as otherwise Government stood to loose Rs. 250 crores in revenue, the Chief Minister said.

While Mr. Azhagiri argued that Tamil Nadu's position on this should be on par with neighbouring Karnataka, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh and that domestic industry should not be discriminated when foreign companies were given so many concessions, Mr. Karunanidhi said the new norm applied to all industries irrespective of whether they were domestic or foreign.

Even if there was revenue loss for the Government, it could be offset by larger benefits accruing to it if industries diversifying their operations generated more employment to the people, contended Mr. Alagiri. As regards the outlays sought under the head, ``Capital Outlay on Industrial Development'', Mr. Karunanidhi explained that the Government had only sought a token provision.

But with regard to the modified G.O. on extending sales-tax based concessions, the Chief Minister said a reconsideration was possible only if Government's interests was not jeopardised.