CEL

To

Smt Nirmala Sitharaman

Union Finance Minister

Dear Smt Sitharaman,

I refer to my earlier letter of May 19, 2022 (http://eassarma.in/sites/default/files/public/Drop-privatisation-forthwith.pdf) calling upon your Ministry to drop all further disinvestment proposals, in view of the dubious outcomes of the sale of the CEL and Pawan Hans and the potential fraudulent aspects of the LIC IPO. Apparently, the Centre is in no mood to halt the reckless privation adventure, the only plausible reason for it being its overexuberance to hand over the valuable assets of the CPSEs in a distress sale to private companies, irrespective of the latter’s antecedents and their capability to utilise the public assets for the public good. This raises serious concerns about the propriety of the ongoing disinvestment programme.

I felt surprised and distressed to have come across a recent news report (https://m.economictimes.com/news/economy/finance/centre-may-invite-fresh-bids-for-cel-after-charges-of-rigging/articleshow/91950761.cms) that the centre, instead of drawing lessons from the earlier CEL embroglio, is once again attempting to sell the CPSE’s valuable assets to a private company, at any cost, a decision that certainly calls for an independent probe. Evidently, extraneous considerations have come to play in taking such a decision that runs counter to the national interest.

Apparently, your Ministry is blissfully ignorant of the enormous R&D capital of the CEL and the value of its human resources potential. DIPAM which had failed to exercise minimal due diligence in ascertaining the antecedents of the bidders in the earlier shameful exercise of disinvestment, which must have caused a great deal of embarrassment to the Union Cabinet, has apparently not cared to consult either the  Dept of Scientific and Industrial Research, the concerned administrative Department or the management of the CEL, about the CPSE’s latest plans to contribute to the nation’s self-reliance effort.

In this connection, I refer to an interview given by the CEL’s Chairman & Managing Director on CEL’s future roadmap.(https://government.economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/policy/atmanirbhar-bharat-effect-central-electronics-develops-future-ready-tech-for-defence-railway-aviation-markets-gears-up-for-local-to-global-exports/81461422). I have extracted below an excerpt from his interview.

We have tied-up with organizations for introducing our products/technologies in the global market.Similarly, we have also partnered with some for licensing their products and marketing in India and outside. We are exploring business from outside for our new products in defence, railway and aviation,”

What a climbdown it would be if your Ministry once again went through an embarrassing exercise of bidding and entrusted the destiny of such a jewel of a CPSE to a shoe company or a furniture showroom! Apparently, neither DIPAM nor your Ministry has ever cared to understand what the CPSEs are doing in terms of building up the nation’s self-reliance capacity.

I get the feeling that the proposed disinvestment of the CEL would once again eliminate competition from the other highly competent CPSEs like the Bharat Electronics Ltd., who have the capability of fulfilling CEL’s aspirations in developing new products of strategic value, as the whole purpose of the disinvestment programme seems to put the nation’s wealth for a distress sale to those who are influential in one way or the other.

May I once again reiterate my earlier demand that your Ministry should listen to sane advice and put a full stop to the dubious privatisation exercise once for all?

May I also demand that your Ministry allows the CEL to pursue its purposeful roadmap, rather than dismantling it? If at all your Ministry considers it desirable to consolidate the operations of the CEL, you should seriously consider the BEL to acquire the CEL, though I do not see any immediate justification for interfering with the CEL’s plans.

I sincerely hope that you will proceed as suggested.

Regards,

Yours sincerely,

E A S Sarma

Former Secretary to Govt of India

Visakhapatnam


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