Its Govt Vs Govt After NJMC Officials Arrest

Kolkata, October 25: | Updated: Oct 26 2002, 05:30am hrs
The government works without fear or favour. Or so the Union textile ministry has discovered, after an official of one of its undertakings was jailed on a complaint by authorities under another ministry for defaulting on provident fund (PF) payments.

When the ailing government-owned National Jute Manufa-ctures Corp failed to clear its PF dues, the Regional Provident Fund Commissioners office here swung into action and arrested a former manager during whose tenure the default had occurred.

The managers arrest compelled the Union textile secretary, Mr SB Mahapatra, to write to his counterpart at the labour ministry, Dr PD Shenoy, pointing out that NJMC is in no position to clear its dues before a planned asset disposal.

In the letter, dated October 1, Mr Mahapatra has pointed out that Mr Devidas Ratan, the former head of NJMCs National unit, was remanded to police custody and denied bail by a magistrate on a complaint filed by the RPFC, east.

Mr Ratan, who retired from NJMC on August 31 this year, was arrested on September 3. NJMC runs six mills, all nationalised in the eighties after being run to the ground by private parties.

Mr Ratan got bail from the high court on September 8, after being in jail for five days.

Many instances, Mr Mahapatra has argued, have come to my notice in which the senior officers concerned of the PSU have to seek bail etc from the criminal courts. In some of the cases the bail have been denied to the officers concerned causing lot of harassment and tension.

Mr Mahapatra has pointed out that NJMC has been on the sickbed of the Board for Industrial & Financial Reconstruction (BIFR) since 1993, and is very weak financially.

He said the government has decided to close down all the six units of NJMC and sell all the assets to raise cash for paying off all secured and unsecured creditors.

The outstanding PF dues as on 30.6.2002 are Rs 106 crore, we are making all efforts to liquidate 25% of PF dues in the current financial year, Mr Mahapatra has pointed out.

The RPFC, however, is not budging from its stand since it has not received any directions from its parent ministry.

Mr AN Roy, the RPFC, said: I have no idea about the letter of textile secretary, nor have I received any communication from the labour secretary.

He said all government departments run under certain Acts and no government organisation is above the law. So any default on the part of any organisation has to be tackled with the methods specified in the law.

MJMCs officials, meanwhile, are alarmed by another aspect of Mr Mahapatras letter. They say the textile secretary is contradicting his own minister by saying that all six NJMC units are up for sale.

According to one official, the textile minister, Mr Kashiram Rana, has said publicly that only three of the six units will be sold, and that the funds thus raised will be used to revive the rest.