WB: Durgapur Staff Launch Protest Against Disinvestment of Profitable Power PSU
NSPCL workers protest attempts to sell share of the company. photo courtesy Biswaroop Banerjee
Kolkata: Workers in Durgapur have launched a protest against the proposed selling of NSPCL i.e NTPC-SAIL Power Company Ltd to private buyers. The unit has been one of the most profitable PSUs in the power sector and in the year 2021-22 made a profit of 360 crore. The year before, in 2020-21, it made a profit of 348.68 crore, and in 2019-20, it made a similar profit of 368.96 crores.
The power company was founded in March 2001 with production facilities of 60 MW plants at Durgapur (DSP) and Rourkela (RSP) each. After its establishment, the Bhilai Electric Supply Co Ltd (BESCL), which was formed in March 2002, was merged with NSPCL. The latter became an integral part of NSPCL on September 9, 2006.
At present, the total production capacity of the company is 814 MW. Few additional projects are also being pursued and are under construction.
The Plant Load Factor (PLF) of NSPCL is 86.33%, which is one of the highest in the industry.
The performance and the balance sheet of the company are both extremely good, on paper as well as in practise.
Both Maharatna SAIL and Maharatna NTPC have 50% of shares in NSPCL. As per latest reports, the Government wants to disinvest 24% each from both the Maharatna PSUs.
In 2000, the government tried to sell it to Enron, an American energy company mired in cases of fraud. Determined protests by the working class thwarted the takeover at that time. ‘Go Back Enron!’ slogans were raised by the workers of the Durgapur steel plant under the leadership of the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU).
It was on the advice of Mackenzie, the famous non-governmental consultancy that the decision to sell off the power major was taken. Later in that year Enron filed for bankruptcy.
After that in 2001 both Maharatna majors NTPC and SAIL got together, and formed the power supply arm of the steel industry in Durgapur. It is now supplying power not only to Durgapur steel industry, but also to other units of SAIL in Rourkela and Bhilai .
On October 17, 2019, in the name of structural adjustments in the company, the insurance brokerage consultancy Wilis Towers Watson PLC was made the advisor of this company. On October 21, 2019, when the representatives of aforementioned company came on a visit, once again the workers and contractual workers of NSPCL and of Durgapur steel came and obstructed the visitors and sloganeered ‘Go Back Watson’. Ultimately, on facing such strong protests the visitors left the company premises.
“Since the PSU’s proposed disinvestment this time became news, workers have again formed a committee to protest and resist the attempts to sell off the profitable PSU,” Pradyut Mukherjee, president of the NSPC Employees’ Union told NewsClick.
Mukerjee called for “A more solid and grassroot unity of workers and all the stakeholders of the concern to thwart the attempted sale,” and added that “This time the executives and workers have come around and started a movement unitedly. A core committee ‘PSU Save, Save NSPCL’ has been formed. The general secretary of the executive association is the convenor of this particular committee. The Committee has called for protracted demonstrations and actions, “till the desired results are obtained”.
Commenting on this, Bijoy Saha, the working president of Hindustan Steel Employees’ Union said that “A movement is being forged against the paper sale of the entity in the model of earlier movements forged during the time of ASP Bachao committee. All sections of people of Durgapur are being informed of the situation.” He alleged that the 48% sale will soon turn into majority share being divested off from the government’s hand. “Though stopping it is a herculean task, we will nonetheless give maximum efforts towards it.”
Subhas Mukhopadhya, president of West Bengal state committee of CITU has condemned the attempt to sale off the profitable PSU as a heinous attempt and said that that “This government has not constructed an iota of industry for the people and is going beserk to sale of profitable PSUs like the NSPCL. We will fight and let people know of its consequences. We are forging movements to stop the sale of national assets. If this goes on, then India’s condition will be like Sri Lanka. This has to be stopped at all costs and we will do what is needed in the case of this PSU. CITU is taking all other trade unions and even the executive association to stop the sale; it has to be stopped at all costs.”
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