As the dust on the controversial sale of The Centaur settles down, one cannot but help reflect on the one sale which did not evoke any controversy, viz Maruti Udyog Limited (MUL). It is, therefore, worthwhile to recount that the government in the case of MUL divested its equity in three stages in favour of Suzuki Motor Company (SMC), increasing SMCs stake from 26% to 40%, then from 40% to 50% and finally from 50% to 55%. After that, the government off-loaded a part of its remaining shares to the public through a much celebrated IPO.
The government got a good deal. In the third stage, the government got Rs 1,000 crore for a mere 5%, as it involved ceding management control. Also, the IPO fetched a good amount.
But in this isolated success story of divestment, the unwritten tale of the union employees struggling to retain their rights has not been properly chronicled. For instance, the Union government wrote to every member of Parliament, explaining the long-term financial benefits emanating from a fully depreciated plant producing the same vehicle for two decades.
Such knowledge becoming available in the public domain could thus not allow a farcical evaluation, as has happened in the case of Modern Foods/Balco and The Centaur. The government got rewarded, but the union leaders were victimised. And around 50 of them are still struggling to get justice through the labour courts.
A few officers, caught between loyalty to the Government of India vis-a-vis Suzuki Motor Corporation, were forced to resign. While some other focussed officials got extended tenures and post-retirement advisory posts in the company.