Confused over the vacillating stand of the Union Ministry of Chemical and Fertilisers over the fate of Hindustan Antibiotics (HA) in Pimpri, over 1,000 employees of the public sector unit (PSU) wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday, drawing his attention to the fact that his ‘much tom-tommed Make-in-India’ plan has fallen flat when it comes to keeping the country’s pioneer antibiotics unit intact.
Aggrieved and angry at the constant apathy of the central government towards their persistent demand for working capital to run the unit and meet salary arrears, the employees pleaded with the Centre to help them run the unit amidst speculation over the likely closure of the PSU. Their fears stemmed from the fact that the Union budget provided only Rs one lakh for the unit, whereas they had demanded nearly Rs 100 crore by way of salary arrears and working capital.
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“On one hand, you are insisting on the success of your Make-in-India campaign, and on the other, the government seems to be waiting for Hindustan Antibiotics to close down on its own. We get this feeling because despite our pleas for over Rs 100 crore, your government has provided only Rs one lakh in the budget,” HA union general secretary Sunil Pataskar said in the letter.
Pataskar said that HA was started by India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru after the death of Kasturba Gandhi due to non-availability of antibiotics in the country. “It’s a pioneer PSU. It is the nation’s pride. It is our own. We have been producing antiobiotics and other medicines for years. But the PSU has fallen on bad times due to competition from countries like China. Their units get government support and protection and are therefore thriving. Whereas, the Modi government is not supporting us one bit,” the letter added.
Pataskar said that medicines produced by HA has great demand in the country. “But for the earlier as well as the present government, HA continues to suffer badly. If we are given a chance to run the unit, we will run it successfully. But for that, the government should provide us some working capital which it is not ready to do,” he said, adding that the confusion over the fate of HA has continued for long.
“Only last week, the Secretary of the Ministry of Chemical and Fertilisers told us that the government was readying a rehabilitation package for HA. But at the same time, the government has no provision for HA under plan or non-plan heads. Besides, it has not given us approval for sale of our land which will help us rustle up working capital to keep the PSU up and running,” Pataskar said.
Meanwhile, HA managing director KV Varkey said that the management has also written a letter to the Union Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilisers, conveying to it that it would not be possible to run the unit after April 1 due to lack of funds.
“Only our agriculture unit is running while other units depend on the orders we receive for supply of medicine. Even this will close down if the ministry fails to provide the required amount for salary arrears and working capital. Also, we need funds to pay pending electricity bill. If the bill is not paid, power supply is likely to be disconnected,” Varkey said.
Varkey said that due to the precarious financial position, the management has sought the advice of the ministry regarding the future course of action. “I cannot lock down the company. It is not within my powers. But it won’t be possible to run the company after April 1 if we do not get immediate funds from the Centre,” he said.