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Wednesday, Oct 13, 2004

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Cabinet may take up Rs 450-cr PSU revamp package

Ambarish Mukherjee

New Delhi , Oct. 12

THE Cabinet is likely to consider a restructuring package worth Rs 450 crore for weak public sector units in its meeting scheduled here for Wednesday. It is also expected to discuss the proposed National Steel Policy formulated by the Ministry of Steel.

According to sources, the proposed package has three components. Firstly, a decision is expected on which PSUs are not in a position for revival and should be closed down. Second is a decision on which PSUs are in a position to be revived and what needs to be done on that. And thirdly, a decision on the dues of employees in the PSUs that have ceased to operate or are still functioning but are in a precarious financial situation.

Sources said that the proposed package has the clearance from the Ministry of Finance but since it involves large funding, the Cabinet on Wednesday is likely to take up the proposal before giving it a final go-ahead.

Sources said that several PSUs under the administrative control of the Ministry of Heavy Industries are included in the list of PSUs for which an action plan has been formulated by the Government. But they declined to give details.

The Cabinet is also expected to take up the issue of the proposed National Steel Policy 2004. In an informal interaction with the media, the Minister for Steel, Chemicals and Fertilisers, Mr Ram Vilas Paswan, confirmed this.

The draft policy circulated by the Minister earlier stated that, "PSUs in the steel sector will be disinvested in due course of time. A task force shall be constituted to identify the PSUs to be considered for privatisation/disinvestment/dilution of Government ownership. The task force will also suggest strategies to expedite disinvestment process for the units/facilities already identified for this purpose."

This proposal is, however, contradictory to what the Steel Minister has announced repeatedly - that steel PSUs would not be disinvested.

Asked about the recent controversy over live shells found in steel scrap imported by some private sector steel companies, the Minister said that since any one can import scrap, the ministry was not in a position to exercise control over it. But it is a matter for the Customs and Excise Department and national interest should get priority over commercial interests, he said.

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