Unions seek control of PSUs
Infotech drive in north-east
Easier STD norms sought

New Delhi, Aug 12 
Trade unions today asked the government to give workers a chance to form co-operatives to run public sector enterprises before closing or selling them.

Speaking to reporters after a meeting with Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, Intuc president G. Sanjeeva Reddy said selloff in state-owned companies should be carried out judiciously, and workers must be given an opportunity to run them. The meeting was attended by leaders of the country’s frontline unions such as Intuc, Citu, BMS and HMS.

“Disinvestment must be pushed only where it is necessary, and certainly not in profit-making PSUs. The money from disinvestment must be ploughed back to rehabilitate these companies. Most important, the government must give workers a chance to run these PSUs,” Reddy said.

According to sources, today’s meeting was convened primarily to persuade unions to call off their planned three-day strike from August 17 against the government’s disinvestment policy. The Prime Minister, while explaining to them the need for selloff in public sector units, won a breather when these leaders agreed to defer the proposed strike.

The unions want divestment to be limited to 40 per cent, PSU shares allotted to employees and officers, and bulk allotment of shares to monopoly houses to discouraged. The aim is to ensure that the control remains with the government.

The unions also asked the government to amend the Bonus Act to raise the eligibility limit, defer proposals for amendment of other Labour Laws till the second National Commission on labour submits its recommendations and amend Sica to ensure quick revival of PSUs.

At the same time, Reddy said contract labour in companies must be regularised, and the recent cut in EPF rate should be reviewed.

Sources said the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS) continued to adopt a hawkish line against multinationals. Its chief, R. K. Bhakt, said the government should ensure that these companies are not allowed to enter so easily and quickly.

Meanwhile, the Prime Minister assured trade union leaders that his government did not want a confrontation with workers, and would protect their interest while pursuing its disinvestment strategy.

Vajpayee said there should be a congenial industrial climate in the country for an all-round development. He sought to allay apprehensions that his government was anti-labour.

The meeting was also attended by finance minister Yashwant Sinha, labour minister Satyanarain Jatiya and the new disinvestment minister, Arun Shourie, who led the call to trade unions to withdraw their notice for a strike in PSUs.    

New Delhi, Aug 12 
Union minister for information technology Pramod Mahajan will launch a Rs 220 crore centrally sponsored scheme to set up computer information centres in 446 blocks in the north-east.

The project will be monitored directly by the secretary of the ministry who will be the mission co-ordinator with IT professionals as members.

Mahajan will inaugurate the computer information centres and earth stations of the software technology park of India in Guwahati, tomorrow. He will also inaugurate the computerised Braille transcription system for the blind, being implemented by the Centre for Electronics Design and Technology of India.

The government will introduce, for the first time, the build operate and transfer (BOT) scheme in the infotech sector.

“There is a hidden IT potential in the north-east. The STPIs in Assam and Sikkim would provide a major boost to the region,” Mahajan said.

“They would attract both software and hardware companies, generating local employment,” he added.    

New Delhi, Aug 12 
Small telecom companies have sought a reduction in the licence fee and a lower net worth as the conditions for entry into national long distance (NLD) telephone services. As a result, the government has not finalised the guidelines that it had said would be unveiled long before August 15.

By pressing for easier entry norms, the small players have sought to take on the might of big companies keen on grabbing a slice of the STD pie. They want the mandatory minimum net worth reduced from Rs 2,500 crore to Rs 500 crore. The licence fee, they have urged the government, should be Rs 200 crore — not the Rs 500 crore that has already been fixed. In addition, they say this amount should be split equally between a licence fee and a bank guarantee.

“It is true that a few companies have approached us to reduce the licence fee and net worth. It would be unfair to name them since all they have done is to make a request,” sources working on the final guidelines for NLD services said.

Department of Telecommunications (DoT) secretary Shyamal Ghosh today attended a meeting on the issue convened by the secretary in the Prime Minister’s office to discuss the final draft. He had said on Thursday that the package of norms have already been finalised, and that they would be announced much before the August 15 deadline set by the Prime Minister.

Sources say the final norms will take into account the need for faster installation of network and rollout of services on time.

“Internet service providers are the best examples of how consumers can benefit from lower rates and improved quality of service and customer. This can be witnessed in the case of Videsh Sanchar Nigam Limited.

This is an issue which Prime ministers office has directed DoT to keep in mind while framing the final guidelines,” the sources said.    


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