Strategic sale in 5 PSUs: Government has no place in business, says Pradhan

Our Bureau New Delhi | Updated on November 21, 2019

Dharmendra Pradhan, Union Minister of Steel

NRL excluded from BPCL strategic sale on request of Assam Government, says Pradhan

A day after the Cabinet decided to shed the Centre’s holding in five public sector undertakings, Minister for Petroleum and Natural Gas, and Steel, Dharmendra Pradhan reiterated his stand that the government should not be operating businesses in sectors that are self-sustaining.

Read also: Centre clears strategic divestment in five PSUs

The five PSUs in which the Centre will sell stake are Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd (BPCL); Shipping Corporation of India; Container Corporation of India; Tehri Hydro Power Development Corporation (THDCIL), and North Eastern Electric Power Corporation Ltd (NEEPCO).

Speaking to presspersons on the sidelines of the Second Indian Steel Association-Steel Conclave, Pradhan said, “We have been clear since 2014 that sectors where businesses can sustain themselves should be allowed to continue. Government has no business to be in the business. The rights of consumers in India are supreme.”

He said the move to sell stake in CPSEs is in line with the aim to bring more professionalism in some sectors. He gave the example of the telecom and aviation sector.

The Centre on Wednesday gave in-principle approval for the strategic disinvestment of the government shareholding in five public sector enterprises, along with management control. While the other PSUs are being sold in toto, Numaligarh Refinery Ltd, a subsidiary of BPCL, will not be part of the strategic sale according to the decision of the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs.

Responding to queries on why NRL is being excluded, Pradhan said, “Including or excluding anything is to be decided by market experts and strategists ... Numaligarh Refinery is an outcome of the Assam Accord. It was set up after Assam was integrated within the India’s framework, following a student movement that resulted in dialogues.”

“NRL will maintain the identity of a government company. A successful PSU will be given its responsibility. The Assam government had made a request for the same to the Prime Minister and this was accepted,” he added.

On whether the government has already found a buyer for BPCL or if another Public Sector Enterprise is going to step in, as was the case with ONGC buying out HPCL, Pradhan said, “The nitty gritty will be kept in mind when the next decisions are taken. But when I say that the government has no business to stay in business, then a lot of things are included in this.”

Responding to a query on the timeline for the strategic sale, he said, “The Finance Minister has said the strategic sale is expected to be completed this year itself.”

Published on November 21, 2019

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