Govt to sell Hind Zinc stake via open auction

Tags: News

CCEA clears Jica loan, projects for UP and Bihar

With an eye on the May election, the UPA government on Monday showed last-minute urgency to approve a clutch of proposals gifting infrastructure projects to half-a-dozen states.

The cabinet committee on economic affairs (CC­EA) cleared government stake sale in the Vedanta group-controlled Hindustan Zinc through an open auction to garner an estimated Rs 20,000 crore.

It will help the government swell its disinvestment kitty in order to prune fiscal deficit to 4.6 per cent of GDP. The disinvestment department will finalise modalities for the sale on Monday.

However, the CCEA held its decision on the residual stake sale in another Vedanta group company, Balco.

The government is far behind its target of mobilising Rs 40,000 crore from stake sale in public sector undertakings, having mobilised only Rs 3,000 crore so far.

Over the past two weeks, the Manmohan Singh cabinet cleared pla-ns to offload government holding in Axis Bank in the open market and to transfer 10 per cent stake in PSU oil marketing firm IndianOil to two public sector energy majors ONGC and Oil India.

Finance minister P Chidambaram needs this Rs 40,000 crore and more to meet his fiscal deficit ta­rget. The government pla­­ns to raise another Rs 14,000 crore through residual sta­k­e sale in companies in wh­ich it has already offloaded some holdings earlier.

The prime minister had earlier rejected offers from the Vedanta group to buy out the equity and asked the mines ministry to sell these holdings — 29.5 per cent in the publicly-traded Hindustan Zinc and 49 per cent in unlisted Balco — through open auction.

The job extension plan would be applicable to 800,000 scheduled tribe families that have pattas for land under Forest Rights Act (FRA) of 2006.

The government has notified about 1.4 million individuals and community titles to land under FRA 2006. Of these, around 800,000 families hold land in forest areas of Andhra Pradesh, Jharkhand, Odisha and Chhattisgarh, where the government has faced stiff political resistance from armed Maoist groups.

Though the revenue implication of extending job guarantee is not considered large, the political message being sent ahead of the general election is very important, an official said.

The extension comes at a time when a parliamentary panel has pointed to huge unspent funds with different agencies and state governments.

A parliamentary standing committee had pointed out in August 2013 that various agencies virtually hoarded cash worth over Rs 67,872 crore that was meant for the rural job guarantee scheme.

The standing committee on rural development has also exposed several loopholes, such as fudging of job cards, delay in payment of wages, non-payment of unemployment allowances, a large number of incomplete works, cases of misappropriation, malpractices and corruption.

The joint parliamentary panel has also pointed out that the UPA government’s flagship programme that catapulted the Congress-led coalition to power in 2009 was on the verge of ‘crumbling’.

The beneficiaries can avail the additional 50 days’ job guarantee while working on their fields. It translates to Rs 150 per day cash or in foodgrain to tribal families as daily wages without any work assigned to them under scheme.

FRA beneficiaries will also be able to avail assistance for houses under the Indira awaas yojana.

The government has initiated the national rural livelihoods mission (NRLM) in 250 most-backward districts, many of which seem to have been under the spell of armed Naxalite groups. Several of the scheduled tribe-dominated blocks are part of districts with a major presence of Naxalites.

The rural development ministry headed by Jairam Ramesh has allowed cash payments against wages in 88 integrated action plan (IAP) districts. A campaign urging tribals to seek work christened as ‘kaam maango abhiyan’ is under way in six pilot districts, including West Singbhum in Jharkhand.

The government has initiated governance and accelerated livelihood in 12 Naxal-affected districts in collaboration with the UNDP. These include Latehar, Palamu, Gumla and West Singbhum in Jharkhand; Malkangiri, Koraput, Nuapada and Kalahandi in Odisha and Sukma, Bijapur, Narayanpur, Balrampur in Chhattisgarh. Five hundred gram panchayats have been targeted under the project, including in Sukma district, where the entire state Congress leadership was assassinated earlier this year at a political rally.

Farm-related work apart from creation of durable quality public assets has been added to make the project more flexible, the government said.


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