MAC: Mines and Communities

CITU demands review of Balco deal

Published by MAC on 2007-02-02

CITU demands review of Balco deal

The Hindu

2nd February 2007

* Alleges violation of shareholders' agreement

* Alleges contributions are made by a foreign group to political parties

* Company's annual report admitted to paying money to various political parties

NEW DELHI : The Communist Party of India (CPI-M)-backed Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) has sought a review of the deal concerning the Korba-based Bharat Aluminium Company Ltd. (Balco) in the wake of charges of pay-offs to political parties and complaints of violation of the shareholders' agreement by Sterlite on labour related issues.

In a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the CITU demanded corrective measures, including cancellation of the agreement, following reports that in 2005, the company contributed $ 1.3 million to the Political and Awareness Trust that reportedly funds political parties and "related causes."

Quoting the company's annual report for 2005, the CITU said the trust was a related party, as it was reportedly controlled by the Agarwal family (owners of Sterlite).

Contributions by a foreign group to political parties violated the law of the land, it said and demanded an investigation on such funding and the recipients' names. It also asked the Union Finance Minister — who has been on the Board of Vedanta Resources — to rescue himself and his Ministry of all decisions pertaining to Balco disinvestment.

Urging immediate intervention of the Prime Minister on the role of Vedanta Resources — a company listed in the London Stock Exchange — that now controls Balco as the Holding Company, CITU president M.K. Pandhe told reporters that the company, in its annual report, had admitted to paying money to various political parties.

Mr. Pandhe said the Prime Minister should direct the Government nominees in the Balco Board to take up the issue (based on the report) as special agenda item at the next Board meeting.

Mr. Pandhe also drew Dr. Singh's attention to the finding of a report "Impact of privatisation of Labour: A study of Balco Disinvestment'' published recently by V.V.Giri National Labour Institute, an autonomous body under the Labour Ministry.

The report says that most of the labour-related provisions in the shareholders agreement between the Government and Sterlite had been flouted. It pointed to specific cases of coercion, and harassment of those who were forced to accept voluntary retirement with deferred payment.

The report says that the Sterlite management lagged behind in social responsibility. It pointed out the closure of a junior school, following poor enrolment, and its subsequent use by the company as a godown. "As a matter of fact, subsequent to the discussions with central trade unions in 2002, the then Prime Minister constituted a fact-finding committee on the matter which in its report felt that the strategic partner did not pay sufficient heed to the spirit of the shareholders agreement, which protects the interest of the workers,'' the CITU said.


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