Though West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has been vocal against the disinvestment policy of the central government and has often alleged that the Modi government is selling off major public sector units including in banking, insurance and steel but the state government has decided to go the same way by selling off or leasing out a portion of unused land of Durgapur Projects Limited (DPL), a loss-making power utility that was under a restructuring plan, to clear the firm’s debts.
A few days before in a high-level meeting at ‘Nabanna’ attended by state power minister Aroop Biswas, state law minister Malay Ghatak and chief secretary H.K. Diwedi it was decided that the state government would either sell off or lease out a portion of DPL to meet the debts of the company.
“Though it is not yet clear which portion of the land would be sold or leased off, the process could start with 154 acres spread in three parcels in Durgapur. Two officers of the power department went to Durgapur on Wednesday and visited all three land parcels which could be put up for monetisation in the first phase,” said a senior official of the state finance department.
According to sources, DPL has its power plant and coke oven plant on around 650 acres. Moreover, it has administrative buildings, township and various offices on around 900 acres. About 50 per cent of its 3,559 acres are lying unused these days.
According to a restructuring plan taken up by the power department in 2019, the DPL was divided into three parts. The transmission was taken over by the West Bengal State Electricity Transmission Company, the distribution was handed over to the West Bengal State Electricity Distribution Company and the West Bengal Power Development Corporation was given the charge of the electricity generation.
“But these were yet to be notified duly and no other restructuring process like staff being laid off was initiated. The DPL has been facing a loss of Rs 200 crore every fiscal for the past one decade. A bold step is needed to clear the burden of at least Rs 2,000 crore at the DPL,” said a source.
Leader of the Opposition in the West Bengal Assembly, Suvendu Adhikari had been vocal on this issue. Responding to media queries at the Assembly premises he said that the state government is doing the same thing for which they had been critical of the Central government. “They are trying to sell DPL’s land to a private promoter. They are disinvesting state government’s stake in Haldia Petrochemicals Limited. Earlier, the state government sold off Metro Dairy to a private entity. And this same state government and the ruling party are accusing the Centre of its disinvestment policies. This is a complete dichotomy,” Adhikari said.
The Left Front government had also planned to utilise the unused plots of the DPL by setting up townships in a joint venture. But the plan could not materialise because of stiff resistance from the CITU.
This time also, the CITU said it would resist if the state wanted to sell off the plots or gave them on long-term lease. “We will put up stiff resistance if the government takes any step like promoting on the DPL land,” a senior district committee member of CITU said.