The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Centre boost to PSUs

Calcutta, Sept. 21: Union minister Tapan Sikdar today assured the state government that Bengal Immunity and Bengal Chemicals — the sick public sector undertakings — would not be closed or sold to private buyers.

He, however, did not rule out the possibility of bringing in private sector organisations and transforming Bengal Chemicals into a joint venture.

Earlier, the Union minister of state for chemicals and fertilisers held a meeting at Writers’ Buildings with chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, seeking his cooperation in the revival of the two Central undertakings.

The minister said there was no threat to the existence of Bengal Chemical, as the demand for its products was still high.

Sikdar claimed that the two main hurdles to the company’s revival were the annual repayment of interest on loans amounting to Rs 3 crore and poor marketing strategy. The Centre had earlier sanctioned a loan of Rs 10.65 crore to make the company viable, he added.

“Now the company has to pay Rs 3 crore to the Centre as interest. It is like a debt trap and I am trying to pull the company out of this trap. I am trying to impress upon the government in Delhi to convert the loan amount into equity shares and to waive the interest component. Moreover, there is a need to offer the voluntary retirement scheme to 50 high-paid employees to shed expenditure on salary bills,” Sikdar said.

The minister said Bengal Immunity was in graver crisis than Bengal Chemicals. The Centre had decided to close down Bengal Immunity eight years ago.

“I do not agree with the decision to close this legendary firm in West Bengal. The firm has a vast prime land in Calcutta and in Dehradun in Uttaranchal. We can raise at least Rs 32 crore by selling out a part of the land in the Baranagar factory complex alone and pay 50 per cent of the amount to 500 surplus employees opting for VRS,” Sikdar said.

“There are about 800 employees of the company (Bengal Immunity) and we will retain 300 of them. The rest of the amount will be spent on modernisation of (the) manufacturing unit and clearance of all bank loans taken by the company earlier,” he added.

The minister claimed that Bhattacharjee had agreed to extend the state government’s co-operation in auctioning Bengal Immunity’s surplus land.

The company earns Rs 6.5 crore as rent every year from its properties. Apart from an old heritage building on Calcutta’s A.J.C. Bose Road, it owns a 15-acre plot of land in Baranagar, seven bighas in Belgharia and 34.5 acres in Dehradun.

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