Putting all speculations to end, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said that the government is planning to sell the oil marketing PSU Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited (BPCL) and state-run airline Air India by March 2020.
Sitharaman stated that the strategic disinvestment of the two state-run companies is critical for the government to meet its disinvestment target of Rs 1 lakh crore for the current fiscal year. The talks of BPCL stake sale has led to massive agitations across Assam.
Congress lawmakers from Assam staged protest infront of Mahatma’s bust in Parliament premises against the proposed privatization of the NRL. Two of the MPs from Assam have also written to Union Finance Minister and Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressing their own over the issue.
The NRL was set up at Numaligarh in Golaghat district of Assam in accordance with the provisions made in the historic Assam Accord signed on August 15th, 1985. It has been conceived as a vehicle for speedy industrial and economic development of the region. The BPCL (61.65 %), Oil India (26 %) and Assam government (12.35 %) have their individual shares in the refinery.
The 3 million metric tonnes per annum (MMTPA) NRL has been conferred the status of Mini Ratna PSU. According to its website, the present authorized capital of the company is Rs 1000 crore and paid up capital is Rs 735.63 crore.
The privatisation move is surprising as the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs sanctioned Rs 22, 594 crore in January this year to increase the refinery’s capacity from 3 MMTPA to 9 MMTPA to fulfill the petroleum needs in the Northeast region.
The workers and unions termed the aggressive move ‘suicidal’ as it lacks clarity on the impact of this move on employees as well as on the company’s financial condition. The workers fear that the privatisation of the BPCL will affect the NRL and might leave several local people jobless and insecure. The employees have threatened to go on a strike which would harm the economy of the state.
The BPCL is said to be one of the country’s best profit-making companies and the government has not yet issued any clarification regarding the reasons behind this move. The people of Assam are emotionally attached with the NRL and all the stakeholders must be taken into consideration before closing the deal.
Photo credit: www.nrl.co.in