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Thursday, Sep 19, 2002

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Naik not against strategic sale of state-owned cos

Our Bureau

NEW DELHI, Sept. 18

THE Petroleum Minister, Mr Ram Naik, has said that he is not against the strategic sale route for divestment of state-owned companies.

He said that he had cleared the privatisation of Engineers India Ltd (EIL) and Balmer Lawrie through the strategic sale route six months ago.

Speaking to presspersons after addressing a conference on ethanol blending of petrol here today, Mr Naik said, " I had cleared the sale of EIL and Balmer Lawrie six months ago. EIL is in the final stages of disinvestment and there is no question of any difference of opinion on the mode of disinvestment.''

Queried on the fate of the decision of the Cabinet Committee on Disinvestment (CCD) relating to the privatisation of HPCL and BPCL, Mr Naik only repeated the CCD decision, ``the decision has been deferred; the disinvestment policy in oil sector will be discussed and some decision will be taken after three months.''

Interestingly, there continues to be some divergence of views between the Petroleum Ministry and the Ministry of Disinvestment on the sale of Balmer Lawrie. While both agree on a strategic sale, Mr Naik wants non-core businesses to be sold off to separate strategic partners before the parent company is privatised while the Ministry of Disinvestment wants to privatise Balmer Lawrie lock, stock and barrel.

Mr Naik said petrol consumption in nine States and four Union Territories proposed to be covered in the first phase of implementation of the ethanol-petrol blended project was over 4.6 million tonnes.

``At this level of consumption, the estimated ethanol requirement for blending with petrol would be in the range of 32 - 35 crore litres per year,'' he said, adding that the blended fuel would be supplied through 11,538 retail outlets in these States and Union Territories.

In regard to the commercial use of bio-diesel, Mr Naik said studies on commercial viability of bio-diesel were currently being conducted. "The Indian Railways and Indian Oil Corporation have constituted a joint task force to work out a national level action plan for utilising the surplus land along the railway tracks for growing plants from which bio-diesel can be produced.''

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