Free PSUs and semi-govt units from political interference

Updated: Jan 24 2002, 05:30am hrs
In the larger interest of consumers and investors of the country, and on behalf of my society, I suggested to the finance minister that stringent measures should be taken to ensure that industrial, government, semi-government and public sector undertakings are freed from the clutches of politically-backed employment. This is the biggest menace that is hindering our industrial growth.

I also suggested a review of the education policy given the changing scenario.

As regards taxation, I feel farmers and farmhouse owners should be brought into the income tax net.

Further, Life Insurance Corporation’s decision to provide Rs 5,000 crore long-term loan to the National Highway Authority of India as part finance for the first phase of Rs 5,400 crore National Highway Development Project is a welcome gesture. Their insistence on the Centre’s sovereign backing and a reasonable rate of interest should be accepted to encourage other industrial units to support and take up such nation-building programmes.

I also suggested strict measures for defaulting public limited companies which have either not gone into production or have swallowed the common man’s money, finally ending up with the Bureau of Industrial and Financial Restructuring. We have written to the board of directors of a few such companies, which, after showing negative balance sheets, have increased the salaries and perquisites of the directors.

The reduction in the rate of interest of public provident fund accounts has affected depositors. Therefore, I urged the finance minister to bring the interest rate to a level that was promised at the time of opening the account. To safeguard investor interest from chit funds, mutual funds and non-banking finance companies, a deposit of up to Rs 1 lakh should be insured with Deposit Insurance and Credit Guarantee Corporation, for which regular insurance should be paid.

In the banking sector, we have received numerous complaints from harassed depositors. The State Bank of India tops the list. I told the finance minister that our society will soon submit a detailed list of such banks.

In the insurance sector, the chair of the chairman-cum-managing director of General Insurance Company and its subsidiaries has been lying vacant for quite some time. In the most recent case, the CMD of National Insurance Company, M K Tandon, retired on September 30, 2001. The post was vacant for quite some time after which B D Banerjee, CMD of Oriental Insurance Company, was given dual charge for one month, after which P C Ghosh of GIC was given dual charge. The finance minister should ensure that such things do not happen.

Strikes by unions, backed by political parties, have played a big role in stifling economic growth. As a result, blockade of essential services causes great hardship to consumers. I urged the finance minister to put a stop to such activity, and assured him of full support from my society.

(The writer is General Secretary, Consumer & Investors Guidance Society)