The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Time runs out for Bengal Immunity

New Delhi, June 19: The Union Cabinet will clear the closure of Bengal Immunity Ltd (BIL) by this weekend.

Disinvestment ministry officials said they have sent a ďfinal noteĒ to the Cabinet committee on economic affairs, which is slated to meet on Saturday, to shut down the historic pharma unit.

The government would pay up Rs 44 crore towards workers and bank dues before closing the firm that used to specialise in anti-malarial and anti-gangrene drugs. Thecloasure move runs in contrary to the efforts made earlier by minister of state for small-scale industry, Tapan Sikdar, to secure a revival package for the firm from the chemicals and fertiliser ministry.

Sikdarís revival proposal made last year, when he was minister of state in the chemicals department, involved selling BILís idle assets at Calcutta and Dehradun after a revaluation. The sale proceeds was supposed to have been utilised in modernising the plant and offer a golden handshake to 450-500 of the firmís 727 employees.

Simultaneously, the state government had also offered a matching relief package, which included commitment on marketing BILís products and waiving 5 per cent security fee on state government orders. However, the move never found favour with Sikdarís seniors in the Cabinet and the attempt by the Bengal BJP leader to revive the company took a beating.

Disinvestment ministry officials said they had little choice as the Board for Industrial and Financial Reconstruction (BIFR) had virtually served an ultimatum on the government. Disinvestment ministry analysts felt that the company would not fetch much money if divested as most of its facilities were outdated.

However, the land and the building are considered prime properties and are likely to be sold later on the basis of court orders. The company, which was taken over by the central government in October, 1984, has two manufacturing units, one at Baranagar in Calcutta and another at Dehradun . The main products of the company are sera, vaccines and tozxiods with its own know-how and indigenous raw materials.

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