Gaurav Keeper Of Gujarat To Put State Units On The Block

Ahmedabad, Sept 17: | Updated: Sep 18 2003, 05:30am hrs
Undeterred by the setback to the Centres PSU privatisation plan following the Supreme Court verdict on the HPCL, BPCL privatisation case, the Gujarat government on Wednesday approved an ambitious restructuring/privatisation programme for the state undertakings.

The approval for the restructuring plan was accorded by the state Cabinet at its meeting held at Gandhinagar under the chairmanship of chief minister Narendra Modi. The government has decided to gradually withdraw its equity in different state level undertakings as a strategic measure to make the states economy decisively progressive.

The issue was discussed at length by the chief minister with Union minister for divestment Arun Shourie.

The release claims that the state has finalised the restructuring of state undertakings to stay ahead of other states in contributing its mite in the national economy keeping in tune with the global changes for economic reforms. It goes on to add that the entire state module for a transparent method of divestment has been prepared on the basis of new guidelines, past experience and in-depth study of relevant details.

What is raising eyebrows among political circles, however, is the strange timing of the privatisation announcement which coincides with the chief minsters low profile birthday. According to a senior leader of the Opposition camp, it appears to be a desperate face-saving gimmick by the BJP leadership which has lost face after the SC verdict. In fact, it appears that the orders for the announcement might well have emanated from the powers-that-be at the Centre.

Even some among the state BJP unit seemed equally foxed by the announcement. While the chief minister did mention his intention to privatise PSUs when he came back with a thumping majority in the state assembly elections late last year, nothing concrete in this regard had been done so far. That lends weight to speculation that it is the party high commands way of sending the message across that the BJP still means business and is firm on its commitment to privatise, said a party insider. With Gujarat being the only important state left in the BJPs kitty, it might have been chosen to convey the message, political observers said.

Further, with Mr Modis ambitious Vibrant Gujarat meet round the corner, it is being felt that the privatisation programme has been announced to woo potential investors with its reformist government image.

Pertinently, according to experts, though the state government has not released the list of PSUs to be privatised, most of them would not face any problems privatising since they have been formed under the Companies Act. However, three of the most important state undertakings, namely the Gujarat Electricity Board, the Gujarat Maritime Board and the Gujarat Industrial Development Corporation have been formed under Acts and would require legislative intervention in case they are to be considered for selloff. At the moment, though, the possibilty of any of these going under the hammer appear bleak.

It may be mentioned that the state government would constitute a Cabinet sub-committee headed by the chief minister to monitor the privatisation programme. Further, it would also set up an independent experts committee to decide the details of the privatisation and would also constitute a technical secretariat at the finance department to oversee the programme. Notwithstanding the plethora of committees, The decision will be taken as per the relevant acts enacted by the Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabha after approval of houses concerned, the communique adds. Intensive efforts will also be made to source funds from the Centre or FIs for effective implementation of the programme.