The Department of Public Enterprises (DPE), which is the nodal department for Central Public Sector Enterprises (CPSEs) and is responsible for formulating policies pertaining to CPSEs, is working on norms to dispose of the fixed assets such as land, building, machinery, etc. held by sick and loss-making state-owned units, a senior government official said on condition of anonymity. The loss-making firms, according to Niti Aayog’s recommendations, could be shut down.
The official said that the proposed guidelines will initially focus on how the immense land bank with these public sector undertakings could be “productively used” by government or its other departments. “DPE is likely to guide the departments into thinking first if the land could be used for purposes such as setting up an industrial park or a manufacturing cluster, etc.,” the official said.
Government think-tank Niti Aayog has submitted a list of 74 sick and loss-making state companies to the Centre, of which 26 are those which are recommended to be closed. According to land-bank data prepared by the DPE, all the loss-making and sick PSUs of India have an estimated 2.5 lakh acres of land holding.
The UPA government, too, had considered unlocking the land bank of sick and loss making PSUs with an aim of generating revenue. In August 2012, the DPE had prepared a proposal to set up a Public Sector Land Development Authority to identify excess land holding of sick companies, which can be sold for commercial use. However, inter-ministerial differences came in the way of the proposal being materialised.
The official cited above said that according to the proposed guidelines being worked on by the DPE, before deciding to sell off the land, the respective departments would have to consider several other options even after a conclusion is arrived that the land does not have any productive purpose.