Hyderabad: Thousands of employees and workers of BEML Limited (formerly Bharat Earth Movers Limited) are up in arms against the central government’s move to disinvest its 26% equity share capital out of its shareholding of 54.03% along with management control in the defence public sector undertaking. For the last two days, protests have been held in all the nine BEML units across Karnataka and Kerala.
On January 3, the Department of Investment and Public Asset Management (DIPAM) issued a preliminary information memorandum calling for a two-stage competitive bidding process and set the minimum net worth requirement for bidders at Rs 1,400 crore. As per the memorandum, non-core land and other assets of the company will be hived off and will not be part of the divestment.
Following this, the coordination committee of BEML Employees’ Association in Bengaluru has launched an indefinite protest demonstration in front of head office there. The Employees Union in Palakkad will begin the protests against privatisation on Wednesday, January 6.
Commenting on the issue, A R Babu, former general secretary of employees union at KGF said, “The BEML has become self-reliant in technology, developed human resources in the last 55 years and now the government wants to give all of it to private players. It was founded by public money and has helped its employees, especially from the downtrodden sections. We are opposed to its privatisation and all the employees’ unions will continue the protests until the government comes back on its decision.”
Also read: BEML Privatisation: Employees to Continue Protest Till Govt Rolls Back Decision
“It is not a strategic divestment but illogical privatisation,” said a member of the employees’ union in Palakkad on condition of anonymity.. “The Narendra Modi government has been trying for the privatisation of the profit-making BEML since 2015 despite numerous apprehensions being raised by employees, political parties and trade unions. We will strike hard and save BEML from privatisation,” he added.
The BEML, a ‘miniratna category 1’ company, operates under three major business verticals – Mining & Construction, Defence & Aerospace, and Rail & Metro – and has achieved a total revenue from operations of Rs 3,028.82 crore in 2019-20.
“The company is a good performer across all three verticals especially defence and rail businesses. BEML is known for its metro car production and if privatised, prices of equipment will rise and state governments will need to face the burden,” said the employee from Palakkad unit. He added that about 10,000 employees and workers' lives will become miserable if private players take over the management.
The Congress-led government in Karnataka and the Left Democratic Front government in Kerala have also registered opposition against the privatisation of BEML.
The central government has been aggressively going ahead with its privatisation of public sector undertakings including profit making Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited, Shipping Corporation of India and Air India despite large scale protests and agitations by employees and unions.
The assets of the company are estimated at over Rs 50,000 crore, which includes 205 acres of land in Bengaluru, 530 acres in Mysore, 2,400 acres in Kolar Gold Fields (KGF) and 375 acres in Palakkad.
The BEML employees unions have held numerous protest demonstrations and strikes against the privatisation of the company. As the government has started the divestment process, they are seeking the support of trade unions and opposition parties to intensify their stir.
Also read: Centre Reaffirms Disinvestment of Profit-making BEML