Report by Kamgar Ekta Committee (KEC) correspondent
HLL Lifecare Limited is a healthcare product manufacturing company that has been providing medical products at affordable prices for the past several decades. It has been playing a critical role in conducting welfare activities of the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare. It developed technology for manufacturing contraceptives and established a network of outlets for distributing them and other healthcare products around the country.
HLL is a profit-making Miniratna central public sector enterprise with a net worth of Rs. 300 crore. It recorded a net profit of Rs 112.33 crore in the 2020-21 fiscal year, a slight increase from the Rs 110.48 crore in the previous fiscal, despite the Covid-induced slowdown. Over the years, HLL has made huge investments in research and developments and secured three international patents and is in line to secure eight more.
Despite all the achievements and the critical role it has been playing, the government wants to privatise HLL.
Over the years HLL has created large assets and network which are of great value for private healthcare players. (See details below)
The privatisation of HLL was approved in 2017-18, and in January 2022, the government invited expression of interest from potential buyers worldwide. The Kerala government, which provided land for four HLL production units, requested the centre to stop divestment of HLL or allow the state government to enter the global bid. However, the Kerala government was denied permission.
The eligibility criteria for interested buyers does not require bidders to be in the pharma/healthcare product manufacturing business. Thus, there is no indication whether HLL will continue its current services after privatisation. Further, there is no clause requiring successful bidders to retain the more than 1000 existing employees.
Six freehold plots that house HLL factories and offices in Kerala, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh, and 10 leasehold properties across Kerala, Maharashtra, Goa, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Madhya Pradesh will be part of the sale. It is reported that 430.1 acres of land in Chennai owned by HLL will not be sold.
It is the duty of the government to provide affordable healthcare to all. However, once privatised, the huge assets of HLL will be used solely for making profit. Lakhs of people will thus be deprived of affordable essential medicines and will have to pay out of their pockets.
The Joint Action Council of Employees of HLL have protested against the privatisation of HLL several times over the last few years, including an indefinite strike in 2017-18. They have conducted rallies among the public and received support from the locals. In May 2022, the Joint Action Council organised a human chain from the HLL plant at Akkulam to Ulloor.
The privatisation of HLL is anti-worker and anti-social. It will worsen public healthcare in the country and give further philip to already heavily privatised healthcare.
HLL has been created using public money and for public health. We should not let it be sold for private profit!
Role played by HLL in India
- During the pandemic, HLL procured emergency medical supplies, such as personal protective equipment, N95 masks, goggles, nitrile gloves, face shields, surgical masks, ventilators, and hand sanitizers.
- The company also procured specialised medical equipment for AIIMSs, PGIMER, and other medical institutions.
- HLL implemented the AMRIT Retail Pharmacy Stores scheme to provide affordable medicines for the treatment of cancer and cardiovascular diseases, stents, implants, and surgical disposables and other consumables.
- Through its retail medicine networks in AIIMS, New Delhi, and Haryana, HLL provides 147 generic medicines.
Assets of HLL
- More than 60 acres of land in Kerala, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, valued at Rs. 500 crore.
- Head office in Thiruvananthapuram
- Eight production facilities across India: four in Kerala (Peroorkada, Aakkulam, Kakkanad and Irapuram) and the rest in Belgaum, Manesar, Indore and Haridwar
- 220 pathology labs, 47 imaging centres and 6 labs under the brand name Hindlabs
- 253 pharmacies across India
- Strong domestic distribution network covering about 1.5 lakh retail outlets across major cities and over 1 lakh remote villages
- Subsidiary company HLL Infra Tech Services Ltd., which had a turnover of Rs. 5,081 crore in 2020-21. This company has an order book of more than Rs. 18,000 crore worth of projects across construction, facilities management and hospital procurement as of October 2021.
- HLL acquired 74% equity in Goa Antibiotics and Pharmaceuticals Ltd. in February 2014
- Subsidiary company HLL Mother & Child Care Hospitals Limited, which was formed to operate Mother & Child Hospitals wings with 100 beds each in 20 district hospitals in UP through PPP mode on Equip, Finance, Operate, Maintain and Transfer basis.