SHILLONG, Nov 23 – Meghalaya Government has a dream to “turn Polo area into Times Square” and “digitalizing” the State Capital, but could these well meaning policy-afterthoughts, be an excuse for keeping salaries of the State Public Sector Unit employees pending for four months?
Employees of at least two State PSUs - Meghalaya Transport Corporation (MTC) and the Meghalaya Cherra Cement Company Limited (MCCL) – are going without salaries for the past four months and they are literally begging the Congress Government to clear their dues.
There are 500 odd employees in the “loss-making” MCCL and several at the MTC. Employees’ union of both these two PSU have submitted memoranda to the State Government to release their salaries. Staff of the MTC have now threatened to go for agitation from Friday if their dues are not cleared.
“About 500 employees are yet to get their salaries from August this year and the amount is about Rs. 5 crore. Production at the MCCL has stopped from August as there is no supply of coal,” MCCL chairman Sanjay Goel said.
In fact, the tourism website of Meghalaya Government regales visitors by stating: “MCCL is said to be the only profit making PSU in Meghalaya and has achieved the highest production and dispatch of cement in 5 years. (No specific dates given). During 2000-01, it has exceeded 1.20 lakh tonnes, which is a record since 1996-97.”
That these figures still find space in the Government website and are not updated with present scenario speaks volume about a “digital Shillong.”
Apart from MTC and MCCL, the state of affairs of the Meghalaya Energy Corporation Limited (MeCL) is well known. The power corporation is under huge debt burden, with the Chief Minister Mukul Sangma himself expressing anguish in the Assembly about the Corporation. He said that the MeCL should be prepared for tough measures if fortunes are not reversed.
Many would have thought that Sangma would bring in some dynamism and do away with the bureaucratic hangover of the Corporation and hand over the affairs to technocrats as he had stated.
That did not happen. Unfortunately, Sangma went back to the old routine of bailing the MeCL out by offering it dollops and cleared part dues of the Central power sector units. Apart from these three PSUs, there are 11 “working PSUs” and one non-working PSU having 4,518 employees. The working PSU registered an aggregate loss of Rs 82.08 crore during 2012-13.
There was 33.53 per cent capital investment and 66.47 long term loan to these PSUs totalling an investment of Rs 1575.92 crore during 2012-13.
Out of all these PSUs, just two made profit – Meghalaya Government Construction Corporation Limited and Meghalaya Industrial Development Corporation Limited. The rest made losses. MeCL with Rs 58.43 crore and MCCL with Rs 18.71 crore lead the race in loss-making.
It is now up to the Chief Minister to set the priorities right to revive the fate of these PSUs in terms of taking steps on the burgeoning staff, outdated technology or sheer mismanagement or why should the CAG report state that PSU losses were “controllable with better management.”
There is also the option of disinvestment in some of these PSUs and investing the capital in a select few to consolidate their financial position, but again this may require tough non-populist measures.