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Rollback cry over Nalco

- BJD, BJP voice divestment concern

Bhubaneswar, Dec. 11: The BJD and BJP today suggested that the state Assembly adopt a unanimous resolution seeking rollback of the UPA government’s decision to disinvest in the Odisha-based public sector Navratna company, National Aluminium Company (Nalco).

However, Congress, the main Opposition party, defended the Centre’s decision arguing that it would generate funds for the modernisation of the central PSU.

On September 14, the Union cabinet had decided to sell 12.15 per cent stake of Nalco along with three other PSUs — Hindustan Copper, Oil India and MMTC.

With the proposed disinvestment, the Centre’s equity in Nalco will come down to 75 per cent from the existing 87.15 per cent. The Centre is likely to generate Rs 1,200 crore out of the disinvestment.

The Centre’s decision had provided ammunition to BJD, a regional outfit, to rouse public opinion against the Congress-led UPA government at the Centre. Chief minister Naveen Patnaik had stated that there was “no need for Nalco’s disinvestments as it is making huge profits”.

The party had held protest rallies at the state capital and also at Angul and Damanjodi, where the company’s aluminium smelter and alumina refinery are located.

The BJD today raked up the issue, finding an opportune moment to corner the Opposition Congress, which has been targeting the state government over a number of burning issues.

BJD deputy chief whip Sanjay Dasburma said there was no justification for disinvestment in Nalco as the public sector Navratna company had been earning profits ever since its inception in the 1980s. “It is now under massive expansion plan and after the expansion, it will assume the status of a maharatna company,” he said.

Dasburma suggested that a unanimous resolution be brought in the House urging the Centre to rollback the disinvestment decision.

Supporting the idea, senior BJD MLA and former minister Ranendra Pratap Swain accused the UPA government of being on a “privatisation spree”. Stating that Nalco contributed Rs 15,678 crore revenue to the national exchequer and Rs 3,306 crore to the state exchequer, Swain apprehended that the captive mines and infrastructures of Nalco would change hands to private players with the disinvestments.

“When Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was holding the finance portfolio in the P.V. Narsimha Rao government in the 1990s, he had said that only loss-making units would be disinvested. Then why is a profit-making company like Nalco being disinvested?” asked Swain.

Supporting the suggestion for adopting a unanimous resolution in the state Assembly, BJP legislature party leader K.V. Singhdeo said he had earlier made a suggestion in the House in this regard in September. “The chief minister was sitting in the House at that time. But he kept quiet,” he said.

However, deputy leader of the Congress legislature party Chakradhar Paik said: “There is no reason for worry. Nalco is a government company and will remain so as long as the government stake holding is above 51 per cent.”

Disinvestment of 12.5 per cent stakes will yield resources required for Nalco’s modernisation, he argued.

Congress member Prafulla Majhi wanted to know how many public sector undertakings in the state had been privatised or disinvested during the BJD regime.