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Union sees ploy by government to handover ‘Mini Ratna’ company Dredging Corporation of India to private players

Speculations are rife that the government is keen on offloading the major stakes in the state owned Dredging Corporation of India in the wake of Shipping Minister Nitin Gadkari's remarks that government is yet to take a decision on strategic disinvestment of the Mini Ratna company.

The net worth of the company is presently around Rs 1,500 crore and the total fixed assets is estimated at Rs 1,900 crore. Four months ago the committee on disinvestment headed by the Cabinet secretary has cleared the disinvestment of Dredging Corporation of India and profit earning Kamarajar port, Ennore near Chennai.

There is a demand that the DCI’s offer of 15 per cent discount for all major ports to undertake maintenance dredging services. The company should be treated as central dredging agency to cater to the requirements of all major ports as part of a bailout package proposed by the Union.

In a letter to the Visakhapatnam Member of Parliament where the corporation has its headquarters, Mr. Gadkari admitted that the disinvestment proposal was under consideration of the Department of Investment and Public Asset Management (Dipam), the nodal department for disinvestment of central public sector enterprises.

The employees who thought the proposal had been shelved are now angered over the recent development and feel that the deteriorating financial position would be used as a ploy to expedite the process for strategic sale.

DCI Non-executive Employees’ Union honorary president V.S. Padmanabha Raju alleged that the company, which had earned profits since inception in 1976, was being intentionally made sick to hand it over to private companies, forcing the employees to lead an uncertain future post-disinvestment.

He blamed the successive governments at the Centre for failing to release Rs 167 crore, which DCI had put in the non-starter Sethusamudram project. The employees feel that despite the recommendation of a Parliamentary Committee to release the amount long ago, the Centre had not shown any interest yet.

The fate of the Sethusamudram project also hung in balance though the central government had invested over Rs one thousand crores in a project that will promote coastal shipping in Tamil Nadu.

Ten years ago the Supreme Court had asked the shipping ministry to find an alternate alignment in view of the agitation on Ram Setu issue. Stating that the matter is before the court, the ministry has not moved in the matter for nearly a decade. The Apex court has not stayed the project but things have not moved as if the project has been shelved.


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