Thursday, April 24, 2003, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi



The left and right of disinvestment

Apropos the interview of Ms Vini Mahajan, the apex officer of the Punjab Disinvestment Directorate (April 15), she has aptly dealt with most of the issues raised, though her replies on the slippery and controversial issues were couched in a guarded language rather than being incisive in analysis. However, there are a few issues and lose threads emerging from the experience of the completed deals by the Central Government which need to be taken care of. These are the issues which have distorted the disinvestment policy into disinvestment dilemma.

The most controversial issue in the disinvestment process is the political angle because it is a common scenario in every major political party that while the right hand supports it, the left hand rises in dissent. We all know how Mr Ajit Jogi, CM of Chhattisgarh, came hammer and tongs against the disinvestment of Balco to the extent of even threatening the Sterlite group to get out, otherwise he would finish them completely by getting everyone from the trade union to the state administration to go after them. It is now a matter of public perception that the public sector undertakings have become the fiefdoms of ruling politicians to wield power and yield pelf. Now Ms Mahajan knows like everyone in Punjab that the Congress as well as the Akali parties lose no occasion to get at each other’s throats.

Regarding the question of valuation, it is now a matter of public knowledge from Press reports that Centaur Hotel was resold by the Sahara group at a usurious profit of more than Rs 30 crore even before the ink had dried on the disinvestment agreement. Public interest litigation has also made its appearance on the disinvestment scenario. In the case of disinvestment of Jessop & Co to Ruia Cotex, the Calcutta High Court struck down the deal on the ground of suspect financial credentials of the purchasers who were found to be serious defaulters on the repayment of bank and institutional borrowings.


Considering the peculiar political and economic scenario of Punjab and also considering that the first PSU is yet to be put on the disinvestment block, it will be worthwhile to constitute a high-powered committee consisting of senior and seasoned politicians with experience in fiscal and economic matters from the ruling and opposition parties, responsible trade unionists, ex-CEO’s of private and public sectors with good and clean track-records, retired senior bureaucrats from finance and company law departments, representatives from SEBI and other regulatory bodies to lay down norms for each stage of the disinvestment process. This will certainly tone down the subsequent unleashing of heat and dust which looks like becoming a rule rather than an exception.

R.C. KHANNA, Amritsar

Saddam is history

It pained me to read the editorial "Saddam is history" (April 11). You have seen that Iraq which Mr George Bush wanted you to see, through the eyes of the western electronic media i.e. one Iraqi slapping the portrait of Saddam with chappals or pulling down of the statue of Saddam, not by Iraqis, but by the US & UK forces, and putting up the U.S. flag there.

What you did not see is the little college girl confronting the mighty U.S. forces to save the dignity of her motherland. May I ask you: why do we blame Saddam and his sons and turn a blind eye to Mr Bush who, as you say, is completing his dad's unfinished task. Mr Bush and Mr Blair have no love for Iraqis. Their eyes are on the oil and the huge gain that will accrue to their economy by way of contracts for the reconstruction of Iraq. We do not know if Saddam misunderstood his people, but you surely did misread the situation. Mr Bush has gone to the extent of shelling Hotel Palestine, which had journalists and were not all singing praises of Mr Bush, an incident you just ignored.

P.B. SYAM, Chandigarh

Quite a rogue!

Does any one doubt that Saddam is/was a rogue, and a leader of a rogue state? Did he not shoot his Health Minister at a Cabinet meeting? Did he not lure back his sons-in-law, who had rebelled against him, only to shoot them down?

The common people of Iraq had to suffer sanctions because of the wrong-doings of one person. Mr George W. Bush can aptly be compared with the angry young man of Indian cinema who went against the prescribed norms but was seldom wrong.

Dr G.S. BATTU, Patiala

Unduly criticised

Jagjit Singh has been unduly criticised by a couple of readers of The Tribune for his seeking a ban on Pakistani artistes to India as a reciprocal gesture to put pressure on the Pakistan government to allow Indian artistes to perform there. Jagjit Singh very recently shared the stage with Abida Praveen, Farida Khannum and many other Pakistani artistes. He touches the feet of his senior Mehndi Hassan and shares an excellent professional relationship with masteros like Ghulam Ali. The comment that success has gone to Jagjit's head is even more unfair.

T.S. BEDI, Noida

Lecturers' selections

There has been no recruitment of lecturers in Punjab for the last seven years and nearly 700 posts of lecturer are lying vacant. The 370 lecturers selected by the PPSC are waiting for appointment letters.


Immigration to Canada

The Canadian government is changing its immigration rules too often — it did first on June 28 last year and again on April 3 this year — thus delaying the processing of immigration applications. In the family union category, thousands of people have been waiting for two years. Everyone has paid C$ 500 as the processing fee and some have paid the landing fee also which is C$ 1,000 per head. The Canadian government has accumulated millions of Canadian dollars on this account.

G.S. PAUR, GURIAL (Jalandhar)

New Lokpal, when ?

After the death of Justice D.V. Sehgal, the Punjab Government has not appointed the new Lokpal. Hundreds of cases are pending for decision.

R.P. ARORA, Jalandhar

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