Wednesday, February 28, 2001,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

No JPC probe into Balco deal
Oppn stages walkout in Rajya Sabha
Tribune News Service & agencies

New Delhi, February 27
Braving a strong week-long offensive by the Opposition, the government came out with a clearer and morale boosting reiteration of its disinvestment policy, defending the Balco deal in the Rajya Sabha.

It also stuck to its guns in the outright rejection of a demand for a Joint Parliamentary Committee to probe the Balco deal.

Amidst a walkout by the Congress-led opposition at the end of a day-long discussion in a surcharged atmosphere, Disinvestment Minister Arun Shourie spelt out that the NDA government was going ahead with its commitment to bring down the government equity in the PSUs to 26 per cent in all but three strategic areas of defence, atomic energy and the railways.

He maintained that the government got the best possible valuation of Rs 551.50 crore in a transparent way and at no stage the PMO was involved.

Mr Shourie assured that workers’ interest in Balco would be fully protected and all papers relating to the public sectors disinvestment would be submitted to CAG once the transactions with Sterlite Industries were completed to verify the transparency.

In his statement Mr Shourie said: “In this case as in every case of disinvestment, CAG will prepare a thorough assessment, send it to Parliament and release it to the people”. He added the government had ensured that clauses were included in the shareholders’ agreement to safeguard the interests of workers.

However, to the embarrassment of the government, some of its allies including the Telugu Desam Party and the Shiv Sena joined the opposition in demanding a JPC probe.

The Opposition led by the Congress, had criticised the government for the disinvestment Balco alleging it was an outright sale and scandalous”.

While the Congress wanted to know whether the government had decided that it had nothing to do with the industrial growth and that it was convinced that the public sector units could not deliver the goods, the Left alleged that the government had sold a profit making unit in a scandalous manner.

Raising a calling attention motion on the issue, Congress Chief Whip Pranab Mukherjee questioned the very purpose of the disinvestment of government’s 51 per cent equity to private sector Sterlite Industries for Rs 551.5 crore when the aluminium giant was making steady progress and profits.

He said it was regrettable that though Balco was a profit-making company yet the government had decided to divest its shares “simply because the Disinvestment Commission has recommended”.

He said his party owed an explanation to people as time and again it had been said that this government was following only the policies formulated by the previous, especially the Congress government. He wanted a clarification that the government would retain the public sector or it has decided that it was not delivering the goods.

He also pointed out that the government was apparently trying to bridge the budgetary deficit through the sale of the PSUs. This, however, he said would not be sustainable as it was short-term alternative and other measures should actually be found to bridge this deficit.

Supporting the Congress, CPM member Dipankar Mukherjee said the disinvestment process of Balco was ‘scandalous’ and apprehended that even the sale of Indian Airlines would go the Balco way.

He wondered how the reserve price of Rs 514.40 crore for 51 per cent government equity of Balco be determined by executive order. “I feel this (reserve price) has to be decided by Parliament and Parliament alone”.


TDP too flays govt

New Delhi, February 27
Outside ally TDP too joined the Opposition in attacking the government on the disinvestment of Balco and demanded a Joint Parliamentary Committee to go into the issue.

Accusing the government of “bulldozing the nation”, TDP member C. Ramachandraiah, participating in a calling attention motion on the issue in the Rajya Sabha, said there should be greater transparency in the entire disinvestment process so that maximum price was secured for a unit set up with public money. PTI

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