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CM slams move on Nalco

Bhubaneswar, Sept. 15: The Odisha government has opposed the Centre’s decision to disinvest 12.15 per cent of its stake in National Aluminium Company Limited (Nalco), the only central public sector undertaking (PSU) in the state.

“There was no need for disinvestment as the company is making huge profits,” said chief minister Naveen Patnaik. On the issue of FDI in multi-brand retail entering the state, Naveen reserved the government response.

For someone who had earlier opposed FDI in retail, the chief minister today said: “We are examining the proposal.”

The Centre has decided to reduce its equity from 87.15 per cent to 75 per cent in Nalco, which has its plants in Angul and Damanjodi in Odisha, to generate Rs 1,200 crore. It has also decided to reduce its stake in three other PSUs — Hindustan Copper, Oil India and MMTC.

While the Nalco Employees’ Central Union has threatened to launch an agitation, the BJP and the Left vehemently opposed the move.

BJP state unit president Jual Oram said: “The move to disinvest Nalco was initiated when Naveen Patnaik was the Union steel and mines minister in 1998 at the Centre. He had signed on the note-sheet on the proposal on disinvestments of Nalco”.

Rebutting the charge, BJD vice-president and minister Damodar Rout said: “Naveen Patnaik had opposed the disinvestment proposal mooted by the then Union minister Arun Shourie. Oram is making wild allegations against the chief minister for cheap political mileage and also to keep his position secured in the BJP.”

Leaders of the Nalco employees, however, smelt mischief in the move. “This is a prelude to the privatisation. Nalco is a profit-making organisation. Instead of selling its stake to public, the Centre should sell its stake to Nalco itself. The company has a reserve of Rs 5,000 crore and is well within its capacity to pay Rs 1,200 crore and keep the shares with itself,” said president of the union Nirananjan Das.

This is the fourth attempt by the Centre to scale down its stake. In 2002-03, the NDA government had decided to go for strategic disinvestment but desisted from it following a hue and cry. The Centre had mooted similar proposals in 2005 and in 2010. Last year, the company had made a profit of Rs 1,000 crore and gave a dividend of Rs 257 crore to its stakeholders.