Ex-CSIR scientists express concern to the MoF over the sale of CEL to a private entity

RETIRED directors and senior scientists of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) have written a letter to the Ministry of Finance expressing concerns about the sale of its 100 per cent stake in Central Electronics Limited to a private entity.

The Central Electronics Limited (CEL), set up by the CSIR, was a public sector enterprise commercialising indigenous technological developments of public entities and publicly funded research organisations. The Government, in November 2021, cleared the sale of 100 per cent of its stake in CEL to Nandal Finance and Leasing Private Limited for Rs. 210 crores.

Subsequently, the letter of intent for privatisation was put on hold by the Government, while an inter-ministerial group was examining certain allegations, as reported by The Wire.

A group of thirty-five retired directors and senior scientists of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) have, on Tuesday, written a letter to the Ministry of Finance (MoF) expressing their concern regarding the sale of CEL.

Competency of the Acquirer

A concern of utmost importance raised by the signatories is that Nandal Finance has no competence and can harm CEL’s technological capabilities. As per the signatories’ analysis of Nandal’s books of accounts, the company has no fixed assets, no land & buildings, computers, laptops, etc., and is a trading company with no significant resources.

Also Read: LIC IPO: Gross Underestimated Valuation; Put it on Hold, says EAS Sarma

The letter submits, “The financial position of M/s Nandal Finance & Leasing Private Limited is not sound. 99.96 per cent of its shares are held by M/s Premier Furniture & Interiors Private Limited formed on Oct 23, 2007. During FY 2019-2020 and FY 2018-2019 its account books show loss. Not even a single employee has completed five years.

“The sale of CEL to a financial intermediary / trading company with no fixed assets, no competence, managerial or technological, cannot be expected to bring technology and best management practices. The company is under winding up proceedings and the case is pending with Hon’ble NCLAT vide Case No. 117/2020. The case is filed by Registrar of Companies seeking winding up of the company. We are afraid that M/s Nandal Finance & Leasing Private Limited will dismantle CEL.”, contend the signatories. 

Strategic Sector Enterprise

The letter further states that the signatories are “concerned about the future of Central Electronics Limited (CEL). CEL is known for the development of products through its own efforts and in close association with the premier National and International Laboratories including Defense Laboratories. In recognition, CEL has been awarded a number of times with prestigious awards including National Award for R&D by the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research (DSIR).

Also Read: Privatisation as an affront to the Indian Constitution: How a recent people’s report shatters several myths about India’s neoliberal State

“As of October 31, 2021, CEL has pending orders worth Rs 1592 crores. With these orders alone, CEL would give GoI a gross profit of about Rs 730 crores. As of March 31, CEL had a land in possession making for a valuation of Rs 440 Crores as per the circle rate.”, states the letter.

Irrespective of whether the land forms a part of the bidding process, the signatories submit that the intrinsic value of CEL’s assets, tangible and intangible, including its brand value built over the course of four decades and the technical capabilities of its highly professional staff, including 130 engineers, cannot be ignored.

With respect to strategic sector enterprise, the signatories submit, “CEL has been instrumental in putting up solar photovoltaic plants in prestigious buildings like Rashtrapati Bhavan and many archaeological monuments. It had developed deep water solar pump sets for agricultural applications and developed flexible solar panels for areas like Siachen and other remote defense locations for communication equipment. CEL has also put-up solar facilities in many African countries like Sudan, Mozambique, Senegal, and Mali and so on.”

Also Read: Why civilian employees’ national strike against reckless privatisation of defence production is a milestone in Indian labour movement

While the technological achievements of CEL assume prime importance for putting up large capacity solar generating facilities in the country, the letter also states that it had a number of rapidly-moving initiatives ongoing at present as well as projects underway for indigenisation in railway signaling related areas.

Further, the signatories are “puzzled that when the Department of Electronics is planning to invest Rs 76000 Crores for the establishment of over 20 semiconductor design, components manufacturing and display fabrication units over the period of next six years, why the empowered group of the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs is wanting to privatize CEL.”

In order to achieve the status of an Aatmanirbhar Bharat, CEL needs to be retained in the public sector, submit the signatories. They requested the Government to revert the decision and retain and develop CEL as a public sector undertaking to allow the engineers and scientists of India to commercialise and contribute to indigenous technological developments.

The names of the signatories are as follows:

  1. T.S.R Prasad Rao, Former Director, CSIR-IIP

  2. Vikram Kumar, Director (Retired), CSIR-NPL

  3. H. R Bhojwani, Former Head, Research Planning and Business Development, CSIR HQ

  4. R K Bhandari, Former Director CSIR-CBRI

  5. Paul Ratnaswamy, Former Director, CSIR-NCL

  6. Ehrlich Desa, Former Director, CSIR-NIO

  7. Nagesh Iyer, Former Director, CSIR-SERC

  8. P G Rao, Former Director CSIR-NEIST

  9. Ashok Jain, Former Director, CSIR-NISTADS

  10. Dinesh Abrol, Former Chief Scientist CSIR-NISTADS

  11. Rajender Prasad, Former Head, International Scientific Affairs CSIR HQ

  12. Naresh Sahajpal, Former Head, Research Planning and Business Development, CSIR HQ

  13. Ram Prasad, Former Scientist G, International Affairs, CSIR HQ

  14. B.C.Sharma, Former Scientist F, International Scientific Affairs CSIR HQ

  15. Chandra Gupt, Former Scientist G, Human Resource Development, CSIR HQ

  16. Arun Gomkale, Former Scientist G, IPR Division, CSIR HQ

  17. Raghuvansh Saxena, Former Scientist G, CSIR HQ

  18. H.Purushottam,  Former Scientist , CSIR- CLRI, Former CMD NRDC  

  19. Tilak Basu, Former Scientist G, CSIR-CGCRI

  20. S N Sharma, Former Scientist G, CSIR-IIP

  21. B S Rawat, Former Scientist G, CSIR-IIP

  22. O N Anand, Former Scientist G, CSIR-IIP

  23. Mathew Abraham, Former Scientist G, CSIR-IIP  

  24. Lal Ji Dixit, Former Chief Scientist, CSIR-IIP

  25. Amitabh Basu, Former Chief Scientist, CSIR-NPL

  26. Gauhar Raza, Former Chief Scientist, CSIR-NISCAIR

  27. P V S Kumar, Former Chief Scientist, CSIR-NISCAIR

  28. Pardosh Nath, Former Chief Scientist CSIR-NISTADS

  29. B V Reddy, Former Principal Scientist, CSIR-NPL

  30. G.N.Kulshrestha, Former Scientist G, CSIR-IIP

  31. Dinesh Chandra, Former Scientist G, CSIR-IIP

  32. B.S.Saini, Former Scientist G, CSIR-IIP

  33. Dr. Dhruv Raina Former Scientist CSIR-NISTADS, Currently Professor JNU

  34. Dr. Subodh Mahanti, Former Scientist CSIR-NISTADS, Retired as DScientist G Vigyan Prasar

  35. Bapuji Maringanti, Former Chief Scientist RRL Bhuvneshwar.