The protesting employees of the Indian refiner BPCL on Thursday claimed that the decision to sell the company would be detrimental to the future of thousands employed in this profitable firm.
“We will not allow the government to hand over this firm, which has a net profit of over $1 billion, to any private sector company or any foreign entity. If we allow this, it will open the gates for the government to sell all other profitable state-run firms as well,” Brijmohan, the General Secretary of the Petroleum Employees' Union said.
He participated in sloganeering against the move at the protest site, just a mile away from the Indian Parliament and key central government offices in New Delhi.
Hundreds of employees, including many women, gathered in Delhi to raise awareness, citing the profitability of state-run BPCL and chanting slogans such as “This is the beginning, we will fight till the last breath” and “Modi government Go Back”.
As of 31 March 2019, BPCL had 11,971 permanent and 22,267 temporary or contractual employees. The firm had paid around $580 million in dividends to the government as well.
On 20 November, the cabinet led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi approved the sale of the government’s entire stake in BPCL.
In 1997, the Indian government named nine public sector enterprises (PSEs) ‘Navratna’; the move gave the public sector companies greater autonomy to compete in the global market, so as to support them.
“If the government does not reconsider its decision, employees of other oil companies will join our strike," said S. B. Pathak, had of the petroleum sector union, another prominent organised labour organisation.
The government announced that it would sell its 53.3% stake in BPCL, which may fetch $8.4 billion. This amount will prove to be a major cushion to the Indian government budget, which is facing a severe financial crisis amid lower-than-expected goods and services tax receipts and a corporate tax cut.
BPCL was nationalised by an Act of Parliament in 1976 after being set up in the 1920s as Burmah Shell -- an alliance between Royal Dutch Shell, Burmah Oil Co. and Asiatic Petroleum (India).