As news came that Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee has said in her budget that necessary steps would be taken to waive the debts of Burn Standard,there were celebrations at the railway equipment manufacturing unit.
Nationalised in April 1975,the two units of Burn Standard one in Howrah and the other in Asansol employ 1,000 people that include contract workers. The company,however,turned sick and incurred losses of around Rs 500 crores. Between 2000 and 2002,the number of employees dropped from 3,170 to 262 with around 977 people accepting VRS.
It is a misconception that our unit is closed,we are still continuing with a staff of about 262 people, said an employee of the unit. Subhas Das,an employee at the Howrah unit and CITU supporter,was also happy to hear the news. We hope something positive emerges. Lalu Prasad Yadav (former railways minister) also took up this issue in his interim budget speech,but things never got rolling as the elections were announced and then Mamata took over as the new railway minister.
Binay Shankar Ojha,a union leader of the Trinamool Congeress-backed Hind Mazdoor Sabha said that at present the unit is producing around 90 wagons per month. But with a proper workforce,we can produce up to 200 wagons a month. We want the waiver to materialise soon so that we can start manufacturing more wagons, he added.
During her speech,Banerjee said that talks have begun with the Department of Heavy Industries on this and also spoke of reviving another sick PSU,Braithwaite Co Ltd.
CPM-backed CITUs West Bengal unit secretary Kali Ghosh welcomed the move but wanted to know about the way how these units could be revived. We welcome the Railway ministers proposal for the revival of Burn Standard and Braithwaite Company Ltd. But the question is how the companies could be revived? Would it be departmentalised with the Railway board? he asked.
The president of Trinamool-backed INTUC,Sobhandeb Chatterjee said that the decision is a milestone for Bengals revival.
The Left parties have been using this issue for political mileage only. Now,Mamata Banerjee has shown that she is willing to support the downtrodden and the workers, he said. The Braithwaite Co Ltd was announced as a sick industry and referred to Board of Industrial and Financial Reconstruction in 1992.