16.00 hrs.

The people in the South kept saying that why they should be giving a profit because they are suffering at the end of it after all the work that they are doing. In fact, when a Minister went to one of the public sector undertakings, he was greeted with a banner saying, "We are paid to come to work, give us overtime to do the work" as the overtime had been stopped. These were the slogans at one time. But today, the Unions are prepared to cooperate, to give up a lot of their demands, and to help. I think, a time has come when the Government should get the Unions, the management and the Government representatives together and see how revival can be done.

Now we have opened up. Suddenly you are asking the public sector to meet the competition of companies who have been in the field for hundred years or more, who have the scales of production and who moneys to invest. They want to take over your good companies. They are not interested in your loss making companies. They are going for your Navratnas and for your good companies. Wherever they come, they will discharge your staff saying that they are over-staffed, and then try to run it their way. You are going to have more unemployment and other problems. Remember, when you talk about the public sector employees, you are talking about the whole families who are going to be on the streets. In my own Constituency, there is the Indian Plywood Company. Sir, four of the employees have hanged themselves in the premises of the factory not having anywhere to go and work. Their families are starving. Not only that it is before the BIFR for four years without a single hearing. I have been pleading for them. The workers are saying that they are dying, the BIFR does not comeforth, the company is closed, the assets are being disposed of and there is no one to talk for them. If this is the condition, I feel that the Government today should take a stand and say that they will see what can be done. Instead of just being negative about it and saying that you meet the competition of the international companies will not help. I think you have to give some protection to some extent because after all this is a taxpayers money which has been invested. But you cannot just dump it and say that they will have to be closed down. There is a way of reviving them and I think we have to do it.

Sir, just one or two last points I am making regarding ITI, HMT and the paper industry. The HMT was the pride of this nation. Today, you do not even want to give minimum orders from the Government Department to HMT to survive. Ancillary units are being closed. HMT means hundreds of others who have invested in small scale ancillary units and all that was built around it.

Same is the case with the telephone industry. Today, we are talking big. The pioneering effort ITI made in Bangalore was something which brought telephones to our door-steps. Today, we want to condemn it as something which cannot work. Worst of all are the paper mills. Sir, we have the capacity to run the paper mills. Outside companies are being allowed to dump paper in this country and even the newsprint because there are lobbies which say that they want to import. There was a time when 30 per cent could be imported and 70 per cent have to be bought in the Indian market. We fought against it and Shri Chidambaram lifted that and said that they will not allow it. But I am told after the Government went, this has been again allowed. Sir, today foreign paper might be cheaper. Your companies will close down. Tomorrow, when they raise their prices and charge what they want they will have no competition from within the country because all your domestic industry has closed.

Therefore, I would like the Minister to take a long term view on this and not just ad hoc policy on the functioning of the public sector. Shrimati Geeta Mukherjee has been pioneering in fighting for the interest of the workers and the public sector. I respect the work she has done in the field. I am not a trade union of her standing. But we have also been fighting for the rights of workers in the public sector and in the sick units. I totally agree with her that the Government needs to come with a package and a long term policy and not be victims to international companies and multinationals in the name of opening up, liberalisation and working with the world, and so on. Ultimately, we are respected only when we are economically self-reliant and strong enough to meet the challenge from outside. That means reviving our companies and allowing them to function.

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MR. CHAIRMAN : Shri Mohan Rawale, kindly hand it over to the hon. Minister.

*SHRI A.P. ABDULLAKUTTY (CANNANORE): Respected Chairman Sir:

I rise to support the resolution moved by respected Smt. Geetha Mukherjee. The emotions which prompted such a resolution is, no doubt, the importance we attribute to our public sector and the concern for the workers and their families.

Our country has a culture of its own and our traditions encourage a mixed economy. But the policies of liberalisation, globalisation and privatisation followed by the government have accelerated the sickening of the public sector undertakings. We see the fall out of such policies in the form of ever increasing sick, unviable units. Though factors like lack of modernisation and technological upgradation do contribute much to this plight, as pointed out by other speakers, the new economic policy, is, according to me, the real cause. These policies give undue boost to the private sector at the cost of public sector. This trend will prove disastrous to our country and will go against the interests of a mixed economy. In order to uphold our tradition and to enliven our sick units, I request the government to have a more linient and considerate approach to the public sector undertakings. I once again thank my esteemed colleague Geetaji, who is very dear to the Indian working class, for voicing her concern for the poor workers and their families and extend my full support to the resolution

Thank you.


* Translation of speech originally delivered in Malayalam.


Mr. Chairman, Sir, I am indeed thankful to the hon. Member, Shrimati Geeta Mukherjee, for moving an important Resolution in this august House. This Resolution is mainly concerning the public enterprises. It is also concerning mainly the problems of workers working in these public enterprises.

I must say that I am also thankful to all the Members who have participated in the debate. I am sure that their participation in the debate will be very much useful to me while taking decisions in my day-to-day working.

It is true that when these public enterprises were started by the late Prime Minister of our country, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, had the best of intentions. His own intention was to make our country economically strong and sound. His intentions were very honest. It is also true that, to a certain extent, some public enterprises have really worked in the spirit in which Pandit Nehru wanted us to work. They have been working successfully.

As admitted by some of the Members, it may not be right to say that all the public enterprises are bad. Therefore, I was very happy that one of the Members, while expressing his thoughts in this House, mentioned about the categories of public enterprises. He did mention that some of the public enterprises are in the category of `hexagon' - `Navratnas'. I must say that some of the public enterprises are also better than the private enterprises. There are some enterprises which are running in losses. I have also with me the figures about investments and other necessary information.

There were about 240 central PSUs on 31st March, 1998 and the total investment was about Rs.2,40,054 crore. Out of these 240 central PSUs, 236 were in operation and four were under construction. During the year 1997-98, 136 PSUs earned a profit of Rs.20,267 crore. One hundred PSUs incurred a net loss of Rs.6,542 crore and two enterprises neither earned any profit nor incurred any loss. Thus the PSUs as a whole earned a net profit of Rs.13,725 crore during the year 1997-98.

This shows that the general impression which is being created that the public enterprise means a loss is also not absolutely correct. I do not deny that this is our responsibility that whatever public enterprises are running at a loss, they are also to be brought in on the profit making PSUs. But it is the responsibility of all of us to improve upon the image of our own public enterprises.

Sir, I have seen that some times, we ourselves may be also responsible for damaging the image of our own public enterprises. Therefore, I really read the Resolution of by Shrimati Geeta Mukherjee again and again. She has certain points which she had made in her Resolution. The first point that she made was that she expressed her concern over the increasing number of public sector undertakings falling sick and the Government's decision to close down 12 such undertakings, resulting in a loss of employment to thousands of workers and non-payment of their wages. She also expressed her concern about the disinvestment of public sector undertakings including even the profit making undertakings. Therefore, she has urged the Government to take certain steps.

Firstly, she has asked to stop closure of sick public sector undertakings; secondly she has asked to take steps to revive the viable sick public sector undertakings and to formulate a comprehensive policy to improve the functioning; thirdly, to review the disincentive policy; fourthly, to make immediate payment of dues to employees; and lastly, she has asked to frame a policy to rehabilitate the ousted workforce due to closure.

At the outset, I must make a clear statement in the House that no closure as such has been made in public sector undertakings. It is true that a number of cases are found to be sick, and they have been sent to the BIFR. But when the matter goes to the BIFR, in case of a public sector, it has the desire to revive and not to close down.

I am sure that the hon. Member is also aware that last time when such desire was expressed by the BIFR to close down the public sector undertakings, which were ten in number, a Review Committee was appointed by this Government because the Government's intention is quite clear that as far as possible, we would not like to close the public sector undertakings.

But at the same time, the Government also desires that a certain definite policy will have to be found out with regard to disinvestment. As regards disinvestment, the policy has been declared by the Government and which we are following now.

The first question which was mentioned here about the closure of the public undertakings. It is not that the public undertakings are going to be closed without making best of its efforts to keep them working. The intention here seems that we must take care of the workers. The rehabilitation of the workers should be given maximum importance which is also being done.

What is required according to me is the crystal clear approach to the problem.

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ɽi xxҪ n : ɨɪ g n VB*

SHRI MANOHAR JOSHI: Therefore, a very clear approach of the Government can be made on this issue only because of this Resolution and, therefore, I am indeed thankful to her once again for raising this issue in this august House.

Sir, the policy of the Government is quite clear. The Government's concern is to ensure that the PSUs are strengthened. We do not want to be condemned because they get slowly closed, that is not the intention of the Government. Secondly, the action is expedited to revive loss making and sick PSUs with minimal hardship to employees. I know there may be some hardship to the employees, but we feel that, as far as possible, there should be no hardship to the employees and the revival has to be done. Thirdly, the dues of employees are not withheld. Fourthly, when structural changes becomes necessary, the transition is not painful. Lastly, disinvestment is accompanied by reinvestment or redesigning the economy.

Sir, I made these points only because I always felt that the Government must be clear in its own mind as to what the Government desires to do. This clearly indicates that the Government is not puzzled. The Government has no two thoughts. The Government has decisively decided to strengthen these PSUs. At the same time, I think that the question raised by a number of hon. Members here is as to why these PSUs are becoming sick; what are the reasons for these PSUs becoming sick.

I found ten reasons as to why these PSUs have become sick. There may be some more reasons or I may have to add some more reasons after I have heard the hon. Members in this House.

I must also say that it is not something the the public sector industries become sick. We all know and particularly those who are in the business or industry know that even private industries become sick. Not that only the Government industries are becoming sick or only the Public Sector Undertakings are becoming sick, but the private industries are also on the way of closure today. They are also facing problems. When we meet them, they are also telling us the effects of the recession all over the world. Also a number of other reasons might be equal to the weakening of the public enterprises.

Since we are discussing about the PSUs, I would only say about the ten reasons which we have noted.