Sick PSU's: Bengal Shows the WayGopal Krishna Gokhales saying what Bengal thinks today, India thinks tomorrow might not be relevant today with the continued lumpenization of society in the state. But a recent decision of the Bengal government under Mamata Banerjee has come like a whiff of fresh air. The government has decided to close down 3 sick PSUs in the state and is likely to rethink strategy on a number of other such units. This is in stark contrast to the previous inflexible stance of both the Left Front and TMC governments, despite these units being a huge drain on the state treasury. The units presently identified for liquidation are Neo Pipes and Tubes, National Iron & Steel Company and Lily Products. Another unit, Durgapur Chemicals, will either be similarly liquidated or a stake sell-off will be done.
By Sunil Garodia
This is one of the most progressive decisions of the Mamata Banerjee government, especially since even the Centre is unwilling to let go of loss-making concerns like Air India and BSNL. Although the NITI Aayog has submitted a list of 74 loss-making PSUs and recommended liquidation of 26 of them, the central government is unwilling to learn from the past and is still willing to throw good money after bad in order to revive some of these units. The simple fact is that given the deplorable work culture, flab, outdated technologies, bureaucratic management and regressive policies followed at these PSUs, they are unlikely to ever become healthy again. The insistence on their revival means the promise of minimum government, maximum governance that Modi made is being scrapped. These units are a drain on government finances and should either be sold-off or liquidated, especially since with private airlines and private telecom operators having done in a short period what these public behemoths could not do in decades, the purpose for which they were established is no longer valid. The government has no business to be in business in this age and time.
Mamata Banerjees government has recognized this. It found out that all the three units being liquidated were not in production since a long time. They employed a total of 375 people but the government was paying them a salary of Rs 200 crore every year. Could there be any justification for continuing with this anti-social arrangement? This is a very bold and forward thinking initiative from an ultra socialist leader who had earned the sobriquet of being more Left than the Left Front. Mamata seems to have realized that wasting Rs 200 crore year after year for just 375 people is stupid, especially since this money could be better utilized for the various social schemes she has started. If this thinking can be carried forward, there is still hope for Bengal. There are several other concerns, like Calcutta Tramways Company and WBSTC to name just two, which are being mismanaged and draining the treasury. An expert committee can go into the workings of all such units and prudent decisions can be taken on them. Bengal can then show the way to India.