The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Singh labour spin to Neyveli

New Delhi, July 3: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today decided to reserve a large share of the equity being divested from Neyveli Lignite Corporation for employees.

The decision came after M. Karunanidhi, the chief minister of Tamil Nadu, where the company is based, made such a request yesterday.

Neyveli workers will start an indefinite strike tomorrow.

Government officials said 25-40 per cent of the 10 per cent divestment planned could be reserved for the employees.

While the decision might have been made to enlist the support of Karunanidhi, who has been opposing the divestment, it could also be aimed at taking the sting out of the Left’s criticism.

It certainly does break the Karunanidhi-Left unity on the issue.

A statement from the Prime Minister’s Office said: “In response to the request from Tamil Nadu chief minister M. Karunanidhi' The government will provide for sufficient allocation of shares of NLC to the employees.”

“The allocation would be on preferential basis so that they (employees) have a stake in the future of the company.”

Accused of being motivated by the desire to gradually privatise Neyveli ' and Nalco, from which too divestment is proposed ' by the Left that is spearheading the resistance, Singh has put a pro-worker spin to the process.

The Left, however, was sceptical, seeing it merely as a “ploy” to blunt the edge of its criticism. Sources said it was unlikely to endorse the move without qualifications.

A senior CPM functionary said a formal reaction could be expected only after a meeting of the Left Front tomorrow. “We have taken note of it and it will be discussed threadbare,” he said.

The Congress said the decision would set a “healthy” precedent for other public sector units to follow. In private, some of its leaders hoped they would now be able to turn the tables on the Left.

They want the same principle to be applied in Nalco. The proposed 10 per cent divestment from the aluminium company has not gone down well with either Congress chief Sonia Gandhi or the Orissa party unit which has to contend with protests from the Left and the ruling Biju Janata Dal.

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