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PSU revamp board chief resigns

November 28, 2007 10:41 IST

The Board for Reconstruction of Public Enterprises chairman Prahlad K Basu has resigned from the post on November 22, alleging that the public enterprises department headed by Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises Minister Sontosh Mohan Dev has been "pursuing a much narrower agenda, in which governance reform of PSUs does not figure and closure is seen as the only solution for loss-making PSUs."

In a strongly-worded letter of resignation addressed to Dev and 20 other government functionaries, including Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and United Progressive Alliance chairperson Sonia Gandhi, Basu has accused Dev of being anxious to induct in the Board "a former Trinamool Congress politician without any domain expertise in public enterprises."

Basu, who as chairman of the BRPSE held the rank of a minister of state, cited his deep disappointment and fundamental differences with the stance on public enterprise reform that the public enterprises department has taken under Dev's leadership.

Repeated attempts to seek Dev's views did not elicit a response.  The BRPSE was constituted by the UPA government in line with the National Common Minimum Programme for reforming and restructuring PSEs.

Basu has been in the news, especially for his differences with the secretary assigned to the Board.

In fact, in the letter, he makes a reference to his demand for a new secretary as recently as November 14.

"The department's unwillingness to support BRPSE in delivering its mandate has made it impossible for me to carry out my job. I have so far managed  to run the Board in spite of the fact that I have received no support whatsoever from the department or the secretary who was assigned to assist me."

Basu said the Board had managed to turn around 51 such PSUs over the past three years.

Some of the companies that had been referred to the Board include ITI Ltd, the loss making telecom equipment company that has a plant in Rai Bareilly, the Lok Sabha constituency of Sonia Gandhi.

The government has since sanctioned a major revival package for the company, pumping in nearly Rs 1,350 crore (Rs 13.50 billion) into it.

"The lack of commitment to the modernisation and restructuring of sick public sector units has been abundantly clear to me ever since I took up my position at the Board," Basu added.

Basu's letter points out that in line with the UPA government's common minimum programme, the Board under his single-handed leadership, "has worked ceaselessly to find constructive solutions to address the governance and managerial challenges faced by loss-making, but potentially viable PSUs."

The BRPSE was set up in December 2004 as a part-time advisory body to advise the government on the strategies, measures and schemes related to strengthening, modernising, reviving and restructuring of public sector enterprises. It comprises a chairman, three non-official members and three official members.

BS Reporter in New Delhi
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