Report of Kamgar Ekta Committee (KEC) correspondent
In September 2020, the Congress led Punjab government sold off its entire shareholding of 33.49 per cent of the Punjab Alkalies & Chemicals Ltd (PACL) to a family-owned company of Sukhbir Dahiya, Jagbir Singh Ahlawat and their family members. The privatisation of PACL was done despite it being a profit-making public sector unit.
The government shareholding was sold for a meagre Rs 42 crore. However, as per conservative assessment, the worth of the company’s assets was not less than Rs 1,000 crore. The assets sold off included a functional profit-making plant, 88.86-acre factory land at Naya Nangal, a 722-sq yard plot in Sector 31 of Chandigarh, two housing colonies at Naya Nangal, one of 2.5 acres and another of 8.61 acres. The company assets also included a piece of land at Naya Nangal of three acres.
Further, under the New Business Development Policy-2017, the company was availing exemption in electricity duty for 10 years. The company was also availing rebate of 25 per cent of net GST over seven years, subject to a cap of Rs 120 crore.
PACL was incorporated in Chandigarh on 18 December 1975 for manufacturing caustic soda, liquid chlorine, hydrochloric acid and calcium hypochlorite. It had the monopoly in the products they were making in north India.
Just before selling off its stake, the government had invested Rs 356 crore in the company of which Rs 116 crore was on the modernisation of the chemical factory in 2017.
The PACL had been making profit for the past several years. In 2018-19, the profit was Rs 55.86 crore, in 2019-20 8.8 crore and 2020-21, it was 8.24 crore.
This example again underlines the fact that privatisation is an agenda of the capitalist class. Governments of various parties at both centre and state levels function as managers of the capitalist class and implement its agenda to the best of their abilities.