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Cong flays CM over move to privatise BPCL, 4 other PSUs

By Staff Reporter

GUWAHATI, Oct 14 - Leader of the Opposition in the State Assembly Debabrata Saikia has derided Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal for displaying what he termed the latter�s �indifferent attitude� over the Centre�s decision to privatise BPCL and four other PSUs.

Saikia stated in a letter to Sonowal that such a �casual attitude� towards an issue of critical importance for Assam does not befit a Chief Minister who attained power by promising to protect �jaati, maati, bheti�.

In the letter Saikia stressed that the issue is extremely important for Assam because privatisation of BPCL would entail privatisation of its subsidiary Numaligarh Refinery Limited �which the people of our State obtained under the Assam Accord after making considerable sacrifices during the Assam Agitation�.

�You (Sonowal) could have easily verified whether the imminent privatisation of BPCL/NRL is true or not with one phone call to New Delhi. Since you have not deemed it necessary to do so, I feel it incumbent upon me as Leader of the Opposition to encapsulate the salient points to alleviate your ignorance. On 30 September, 2019, a group of secretaries of the Government of India held a meeting and cleared disinvestment of BPCL, NEEPCO and three other PSUs. Subsequently, on the 11th of this month, the Department of Investment and Public Asset Management (DIPAM) hurriedly invited requests for proposals from eligible parties to work as transaction and legal advisers, as well as asset valuers for BPCL, NEEPCO, etc. Last but not the least, the disinvestment proposals are expected to be accorded Cabinet approval by the end of next month,� Saikia wrote.

He said the Centre had paved the way for privatisation of BPCL as far back as 2016 by scrapping the Acts of Parliament pertaining to nationalisation of Burmah Shell and Caltex and formation of BPCL.

�The removal of this legal hurdle in 2016 itself signifies that the Modi government had decided quite some time ago to privatise the profit-making BPCL/NRL and hand it over on a platter to crony capitalists. For the record, I may mention that BPCL shares have gained 42 per cent since the beginning of 2019 and the company has been registering profits ranging from Rs 5,000 crore per annum to Rs 8,000 crore per annum during the last four-five years,� he said in the letter.

Saikia said that since a substantial quantum of public funds had already been used for asset creation and execution of various projects under NRL, �it will be a great betrayal of public interest if BPCL/NRL is privatised now and the fruits of investment of public funds are allowed to be enjoyed by the likes of Reliance Industries, which had earlier refused to come to Assam and execute the gas cracker project.�

He urged Sonowal to �put Assam�s interest above your party�s interest for once at this decisive juncture and prevail upon the Central government to abandon the plan.�

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