July 06, 2020
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The Cop At The Red Light

In Bengal, disinvestment is Left's middle name

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The Cop At The Red Light
Swapan Nayak
The Cop At The Red Light
The Left may be balking at disinvestment at the Centre but it’s reforming with a vengeance in West Bengal. Says CM Buddhadeb Bhattacharya: "Think of the green, orange and red traffic lights. Green are the profit-making psus which should not be disturbed, although their productive efficiency can be improved. Orange refers to units which could do well with some help. Red means units beyond saving."

But what Bhattacharya won’t say is he has carried the CPI(M) along on these radical issues. Overcoming orthodoxy, the state recently made an agreement with the UK’s DFID, seeking its help in winding up unviable PSUs, falling in line with states like Orissa, Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh. Weeks later, West Bengal decided to wind up two units, Sunderbans Sugarbeet and Bengal Paper and Pulp, not producing for three years, yet employing around 2,000 workers. The Rs 130-crore dfid fund would finance the employees’ compensation.

There are 56 state units in West Bengal, only seven making a profit. Total investment is around Rs 150 crore, the number of employees, over a lakh. So far, 14 companies have been identified as orange, which means some of their employees will have to take the VRS. But Bhattacharya isn’t having fun. The CITU remains a bastion of Marxist ideology and local party leaders are reluctant to surrender their support base. For instance, under scanner now are Britannia Engineering and another company where workers are in surplus. But local MP Tarit Topdar says no to retrenchment!

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