The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Independent of selloff, PSU jobs go

Mumbai, Sept. 22: Disinvestment or no disinvestment, workforce in central public sector enterprises is steadily shrinking.

While the proponents and the opponents of the disinvestment process battle it out, the manpower of the central public sector enterprises has been depleting steadily, having shed almost 20.18 per cent in the last decade.

According to a survey, the CPSEs boasted a manpower of 2.18 million in 1991-92. Now they find their strength has fallen below two million to 1.74 million employees during the year.

In fact, figures reveal that the manpower strength of CPSEs has steadily eroded even at a time when the government had not embarked on the disinvestment exercise.

An NSSO 1997 survey revealed that the rural workforce accounted for 269 million, while the urban one accounted for 86 million. The total manpower in the organised sector was pegged at 27 million with government employees accounting for 20 million while the private sector employed seven million.

The CPSEs accounted for an approximate 2 million employees out of the 20 million government employees. Investment in these outfits has however, gone up sharply. As per the finance ministry’s budget documents, the total liability of the government on account of CPSEs in 1997-98 accounted for Rs 13,065 crore. In the year 2000-01, the total liability rose by 94 per cent to Rs 25,377 crore.

The investment supporting the two million workforce is pegged around 274,114 crore. Therefore, the argument that the CPSEs employ a significant portion of the employed in the country is therefore not factually correct, say analysts tracking the industry.

Fears that the disinvestment would result in massive retrenchment of labour, is one of the arguments by the anti-privatisation lobby. Politicians are thus wary to take any unpopular decisions that may cost them dearly at the hustings.

However, analysts point to the statistics to state that workforce of CPSEs are anyway getting smaller. “And it had nothing to do with privatisation,” they added. “Despite these investments, and no privatisation until 1999, the workforce in CPSEs is declining,” the official added.

Currently, the disinvestment ministry is citing the instances of Modern Foods, Balco, Paradeep Phosphates Ltd and Hindustan Zinc Ltd, the companies that have been privatised and where employers have gained the confidence of the workforce, to push through the disinvestment process.

HLL is footing the entire cost of the financial restructuring to turn around Modern Foods and help it post a strong and steady growth. Wages increased by an average of Rs 1,600 per employee. Balco and Paradeep Phosphates have also reported similar turnarounds.

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