After diluting bidding-clause, Modi govt sold off CEL to furniture-making firm, employees hold dharna
The Modi government has sold off a state-owned entity to a private firm having zero experience in making electronics parts or defence research, complained the protesters
Braving bone-biting chill and rain, a group of employees sat on Dharna at the entrance gate of the state-owned Central Electronics Ltd (CEL) against the privatisation of the company which supplies electronics parts – used in missile and radar technology – to DRDO and ISRO.
It was drizzling when this correspondent visited the protest site in Sahibabad on Monday. Due to cold, rain and Corona restrictions, though a large chunk of the protesters remained off the ground, the anger and discontent against the “blind sale” of the profit-making public-sector company, was palpable on the ground.
“Adani-Aambani ki sarkar murdabad-murdabad!,” employees were shouting slogans when Natioal Herald met with them.
Going against the norms, the Modi government has allowed 100 percent disinvestment in a state-owned entity to a private firm having zero experience in manufecturing electronics parts used in defence techenology, complained the protesters, saying, “The CEL was valued at Rs 957 crore but the reserve price was set very low so that the company can be sold-off easily."
Recently, Nandal Finance and Leasing Limited acquired the whole CEL including all of its property for just Rs 260 crore after wiining the questionable bid. While the land belonging to the company alone is estimated to be worth Rs 450 crore.
Rambilas, joint secretary, CITU (Sahibabad unit), a CPM affiliated trade union said that the Modi government told media and the world that the company is running in loss while the truth is that the company has been posting profit since 2013.”
In the last financial year alone, the company has recorded a Gross Profit of Rs136 crores in 2020-21, added Rambilas, a contemporary to Safdar Hashmi – the iconic theatre artist who was killed by the communal goons in 1989.
When asked how the government can show the loss if the company is making a profit, Ramblas replied, “They have only shown the loss-making arm of the PSU.”
As per the profile, CEL which was founded in 1974, comes under the Ministry of Science and Technology, works in three sectors:
1) Defence – the main arm of the company is dedicated to the defence-related research and supplying electronics items to the DRDO and ISRO
2) Solar business – the second wing is dedicated to conducting research in solar technology
3) Railway security – the third wing of the company has been working on developing safety measures for the railway called Drishti.
Apart from this, the company has also been involved in making bulletproof jackets and reading device called Drishti Nayan for the specially abled.
CEL comes among the top 6-7 companies that produce radome for missiles, laser-based Perimeter intruder Detection System (PIDS), piezo-electric generator fuse for Heat-55 for ordnance factories and circulator and isolator for satellite systems in the world.
“Despite being very crucial for the defence manufacturing and India’s security concerms, the Modi government has put the PSU on sale...the government has compromised with the national security,” blamed Sanjay Kumar of the CITU.
Calling Modi governed real ‘anti-national’, Sanjay said, “First attempt to privatise the CEL was made in 2018 but no bidder had come forward.”
“Then after diluting the bidding-clauses, the Modi government invited bid again in 2019 for the second time. Service-clause has been diluted significantly as happened in the case of the Air India sale,” added Sanjay.
Following the official announcement, a case that was filed in Delhi High Court in 2018, has been reopened. Senior Congress leader and lawyer Kapil Sibal represented the employees.
The next hearing of the case has been slated for January 19. Employees have also approached a Supreme Court lawyer and activist for filing a PIL in the apex court.
“Very soon, we will be filing a PIL in the court,” said Sanjay.
Interestingly, Nandal Finance Limited which has won the bid for acquiring the CEL has less than 10 employees whose salary is not more than Rs 60 thousand per annum, according to the documents.
The Company has also defaulted tax, electricity bills and telephone bills, following which a case against it is pending in the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT).
“How is it wise to sell PSUs with strategic national interests which also happen to be profit-making companies?” asked Congress spokesperson Gourav Vallabh on December 30.
Moreover, the CEL has been a profit-making company since 2013 with a market order worth Rs 1500 crore, show the documents.
It is intriguing to note that only two bidders – Nandal Finance and Leasing Ltd and Premier Furnitures and Interiors had applied for the deal and both are related with each other.
As per 2019-20 financial statements, 99.96% of Equity of M/s Nandal Finance and Leasing Pvt Ltd is held by Premier Furnitures and Interiors Pvt Ltd, a company which is not at all related to the business of CEL.
Apart from Congress leader, BKU leader and face of the victorious farm protest, Rakesh Tikait and JNUSU president Aishe Ghosh have extended their support to the employees.
Both – Tikait and Aishe visited the protest site also and addressed the employees. Large banners featuring Tikait and Ghosh can be seen at the gate, as a testimony to their commitment to their cause.
“We will fight till the Modi government is pushed back,” said Rambilas.