Report of the correspondent of Mazdoor Ekta Committee
Workers of the public sector company, Heavy Engineering Corporation Limited (HEC) protested at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi on September 21, demanding their salaries, due for the past 18 months. The workers are also opposing the deliberate neglect of this important PSU by the government and the government’s plans for closure of the company. They are demanding that the government urgently carry out the much-needed modernization of the PSU.
HEC is based in Ranchi, with plants spread over nearly 5,000 acres of land. Popularly known as the “jewel” of Jharkhand, it has given vital services to several important government projects. HEC has provided technical services and parts to the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) for projects like Chandrayaan-3 and Aditya L-1. It has also helped the Steel Authority of India Limited (SAIL) to build plants in Bhilai, Bokaro, Vishakhapatnam and Durgapur. It has assisted the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) in manufacturing heavy weapons such as India’s main battle tank Arjun. HEC manufactured machines are used in diverse industries. HEC-made machines are used by Coal India Limited to extract coal in Mahanadi Coal Fields Limited, Central Coal Fields Limited and others.
The agitating workers of HEC pointed out that despite its important contribution, the company has been deliberately neglected by the government and allowed to sink into deep financial crisis. Much of its infrastructure and manufacturing capacity is in urgent need for overhauling and modernization, but the government has refused to give funds for this.
The company’s financial condition started deteriorating since 2012-13. A Parliamentary Standing Committee report in December 2018 stated that HEC had persistent losses and had been declared sick by the Board of Industrial and Financial Reconstruction (BIFR) in 1992. The Board had recommended winding up the company in 2004.
However, HEC was provided special packages twice to settle dues and other loans. The company raised Rs 742.98 crore by selling 675.43 acres of its land to the Jharkhand government. It also earned a net profit of Rs. 2.86 crore in 2006-07 and Rs 299.31 crore in 2013- 14.
Despite promises by the Prime Minister and the central government, the modernization of the HEC was never implemented. The Committee had highlighted that the Ministry of Heavy Industries did not proceed with modernization; instead, it only drafted plans on paper. The Committee had conducted a technical appraisal and recommended to the Ministry of Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises to implement a modernisation-cum-revival plan on a time-bound basis, but this was not done.
This deliberate neglect by the government has resulted in the present crisis of HEC. Deprived of their salaries for nearly 18 months now, many of the workers of HEC are reduced to selling tea and newspapers to make two ends meet.
The workers are determined to continue the struggle to save their jobs, for immediate payment of their pending salaries and for implementation of the modernization-cum-revival plan.