Vol. XLI No. 49 December 03, 2017

BMS Move Prevents Kerala Govt’s Takeover of PSU which the Central Govt is Closing Down

A COURT case filed by the RSS/BJP-supported trade union has threatened to sabotage the Kerala government's takeover of a public sector company which the central government intends to shut down.

The CPI(M)-led Left Democratic Front government of Kerala had expressed its willingness to take over Instrumentation Limited, a public sector undertaking (PSU) of the central government which the BJP-led government at the centre is closing down.

Ever since the Palakkad unit of the Instrumentation Limited was set up at Kanjikode in 1974, the unit had been generating profits. The Palakkad unit generated profits of Rs 163 crore in the last 20 years. But the centre moved to close down the PSU, saying that the parent company headquartered in Kota, Rajasthan, has been running losses.

The Kerala government appointed a high-power committee led by the chief secretary to speed up the handing over of the unit in Palakkad to the state government. Subsequently an agreement was reached that the Kerala government would take over the company at market price.

But the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS), the trade union affiliated to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), with only a handful of members at the Instrumentation Limited, went to court demanding that the handover should be done only after all the arrears to the workers are paid. In response, the court issued a stay order on the handover of the company.

It is the central government which is supposed to pay the arrears to the current employees, which amount to about Rs 40 crore. MB Rajesh, CPI(M) Lok Sabha MP from Palakkad, said in a press conference that the centre and the management has been refusing to pay the workers their dues. The central government had paid Rs 742 crore to the workers as arrears and benefits when the parent company at Kota was closed down, he said. "The neglect shown by the central government towards the Palakkad unit of the Instrumentation Limited is condemnable," he said. "The centre has taken the stance that it would hold no discussions with the trade unions regarding the State government's takeover of the unit."

The move by the BMS is against the interests of the workers; the agenda of the centre to privatise the PSU is behind this, said Rajesh.

Trade union leaders said that a joint trade union agitation would be organised against the sabotage efforts by the RSS-backed union.

Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) and the Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC) are planning to move the court to get the stay vacated so that the State government may proceed with the takeover process.

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had said in a Facebook post in June 2016: "The company had started production using Japanese technology, and later attained technological self-sufficiency. The Palakkad unit had managed to successfully compete with multi-national companies in the world market, and the state government intervened to prevent the closing down of the unit. The centre positively responded to this. Following this, the takeover of the Palakkad unit has been agreed upon in principle."

The Bharat Earth Movers Limited (BEML), another PSU with a unit in Palakkad whose 26 per cent shares were slated to be sold by the central government and management control transferred to a private strategic buyer, got a reprieve recently as the process of selling off its shares was reportedly put on hold.

The workers of BEML, a defence PSU, had waged a prolonged struggle against the disinvestment of the strategically significant company which manufactures missile launchers, armoured vehicles, Tatra trucks and other defence equipment as well as metro and rail coaches.

Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan wrote to the central government urging the latter not to go ahead with the privatisation move, while the workers held several protests, including a two-day protest in Delhi on August 9-10, 2017.

Reports said that the disinvestment move has been put on hold considering the warning by the defence ministry that privatising the company would be detrimental to national security.