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PPL employees to petition PM against company's takeover

Written by: Staff
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New Delhi, Oct 29 (UNI) Terming the sale of the state-owned Paradeep Phosphates Ltd (PPL) to Zuari Maroc Phosphates Private Ltd (ZMPPL) as a ''gigantic fraud'', its former employees will take to the streets here tomorrow to demand a high-level inquiry into the controversial deal.

PPL's Ex-employees Association, which will spearhead the agitation at Jantar Mantar, said it would submit a memorandum to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Chemicals and Fertilisers Minister Ram Vilas Paswan, drawing their attention to the illegalities of the deal and grievances of the employees.

''We will also approach the Law Ministry with a demand to investigate the deal in all its aspects, which has coerced a number of employees into seeking voluntary retirement,'' Association President Sunita Anand and General Secretary Amarjeet Kaur said in a statement.

Quoting media reports, they said Mr Paswan was exploring the reversal of the sale of the country's largest phosphatic fertliser company, located in Orissa's port town of Paradeep, on the ground that the controlling interest in PPL --- in which public funds in the excess of Rs 670 crore was invested --- was sold to ZMPPL for mere Rs 15 lakh in 2002 during the NDA regime.

They also pointed out that two more plants like PPL could be established on the huge land available with the company. ''Yet the Centre preferred to sell it for a meagre sum,'' they alleged.

After the sale of the company, a Cabinet Note submitted to the Cabinet Committee on Disinvestment, justified the circumstances under which shares of this former public sector unit were first sold for Rs 151.70 crore to ZMPPL.

''Later, the private company approached the Orissa High Court to claim Rs 151.70 crore back from the Department of Fertilisers (DoF) on the ground of its losses. In effect, ZMPPL bought 74 per cent of PPL's shares for Rs 15 lakh.'' They said PPL offices in Delhi, Bihar, Maharashtra, Punjab, Rajasthan, Haryana and Gujarat were closed and more than 90 per cent of the employees were coerced into accepting VRS.

''In the buy-out by the company, the employees have been handed out a raw deal. That is why we are seeking intervention of the Prime Minister and Mr Paswan,'' Ms Anand and Ms Kaur said.

The Association leaders said over 90 per cent of the PPL's Delhi office employees was forced to accept VRS because of their arbitrary transfers to different parts of the country. Even unmarried women employees were transferred, forcing them to accept VRS they alleged.

They said ZMPPL had promised that no employee would be retrenched, but the private company used transfer as ''a weapon to destabilise us.'' Further, leave encashment and medical benefits were not included in the VRS package, they alleged.

''The problem of the employees has been compounded by the fact that their pension amount ranges between Rs 500 and Rs 900, which is insufficient to run their families,'' they said.

Non-inclusion of medical benefits and medical leave encashment in the VRS package was in total defiance of the practice adopted by other fertilizer companies, they argued.

''When the company was privatised, employees of various departments were offered various inventive schemes. Even though they achieved the targets, they were forced to accept VRS and were deprived of the benefits of incentive schemes.'' Thery also warned of launching a regular and sustained agitation programme if the government failed to take a sympathetic view of their demands.

UNI/SKS SAM VV1155

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