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HEC Staff: From Making Chandrayaan-3 Rocket Launchpad to Selling tea

Ravi Kaushal |
Heavy Engineering Corporation employees have demanded 18-month salary dues and the PSU’s immediate modernisation.
Heavy Engineering Corporation employees have demanded 18-month salary dues and the PSU’s immediate modernisation.

New Delhi: Heavy Engineering Corporation Limited (HEC) employees protested at Jantar Mantar on Thursday demanding 18-month salary dues and the important public sector undertaking’s (PSU) immediate modernisation. 

Based in Ranchi on 5,000 acres, HEC has provided technical services and parts to the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) for projects like Chandrayaan-3 and Aditya L-1. 

HEC has also helped the Steel Authority of India Limited build plants in Bhilai, Bokaro, Vishakhapatnam and Durgapur. The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) also sought HEC’s assistance in manufacturing heavy weapons like India’s main battle tank Arjun. 

Besides representatives of Central trade unions, Rajya Sabha members Sanjay Singh, Mahua Maji and former Cabinet minister Subodh Kant Sahai addressed the protest, where slogans of ‘Modi Government down, down’, ‘Save HEC’, ‘Save India’ and ‘Inquilab Zindabad’ were raised. 

The employees told Newsclick that HEC was in dire straits after the State Bank of India refused bank guarantees to complete its orders. The company also needs to be immediately modernised to compete with its competitors, they said. 

However, HEC lacks a permanent managing director with Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited Nalin Singhal serving in an additional capacity for the company. 

According to Manish Kumar, an operator in HEC’s gear section, several employees have taken up menial jobs, like selling tea and newspapers. 

“Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited the company in 2014 and promised complete infrastructure overhauling. But nothing happened,” Kumar told Newsclick.

“Yet we contributed to crucial projects like Chandrayaan-3 and Aditya L-1 projects. ISRO asked for assistance in constructing the rocket launchpads of these missions—and we delivered,” he added. “Bureaucrats must understand that our work can’t be outsourced to private companies due to their secrecy.” 

Amarendra Kumar, a contractual employee at one of the workshops, said that besides helping construct steel plants, “we build massive machines for every industry. Our machines helped Coal India Limited extract coal in subsidiaries like Mahanadi Coal Fields Limited, Central Coal Fields Limited and others”. 

“The company’ financial started deteriorating after 2012-13,” he added. “Modi has ended the possibility of employment generation by neglecting PSUs. How will any government generate two crore jobs if you neglect the mother of all PSUs?” he asked. 

Fireman Bablu Mahto said that the company must be saved. “It’s a jewel of Jharkhand. More than our salary, we came to Delhi to demand its modernisation.” 

As per the December 2018 Parliamentary Standing Committee report under the chairmanship of Bhagat Singh Koshyari, HEC had persistent losses and was declared sick by the Board of Industrial and Financial Reconstruction (BIFR) in 1992. The Board recommended winding up the company in 2004 in its final order. 

However, HEC was provided special packages twice to settle dues and other loans. The company raised Rs 742.98 crore by selling 675.43 acres to the Jharkhand government. HEC earned a net profit of Rs. 2.86 crore in 2006-07 and Rs 299.31 crore in 2013- 14. 

The PSU again plunged into losses after the Centre did not take up its modernisation seriously. The Committee had highlighted that the Ministry of Heavy Industries did not proceed with modernisation and only drafted plans on paper. 

“The Committee is pained to note that after obtaining a technical appraisal from Saraswat Committee in respect of the revival plan, which had also strongly recommended for the revival of the company, no concrete action has so far been taken by the government except for preparation and circulation of the draft proposal in this regard for inter-ministerial consultation. 

“As the revival plan is not time bound in nature and its implementation without a time-bound programme would make the entire exercise redundant, the Committee recommended to the Ministry of Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises to take this modernisation-cum-revival plan in the right perspective and make necessary efforts to coordinate with all the concerned ministries/departments/agencies so that it could be approved by the government and implemented in a right earnest and result-oriented manner.” 

Pawan Singh, president of CITU-affiliated Hatia Mazdoor Union, told Newsclick that the lack of modernisation “is hurting the company and Ranchi’s economy”. 

“The plant needs updated machines, working capital and proper leadership. The chairman has visited the company only four times,” he said. 

“Collective leadership and discussion by all stakeholders are needed to make HEC successful again. The company contributed a lot to Ranchi’s development. How would the local economy flourish if thousands of workers are denied salaries for months? It is up to the Modi government to fulfil its promise,” he added.

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