'Puzzling': Former CSIR Heads, Senior Scientists Decry Modi Govt's Move to Sell CEL

'It does not make sense to ignore the intrinsic value of the CEL’s assets, tangible and intangible, including its brand value built over four decades.'

Listen to this article:

New Delhi: Former directors and retired senior scientists of Council of Scientific and Industrial Research have issued a statement expressing shock at the Union finance ministry’s announcement on the sale of Central Electronics to Nandal Finance and Leasing Private Limited. 

The signatories have noted that the Union government’s press release informs them that the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs-empowered Alternative Mechanism comprising  three ministers have approved for the sale of the public sector undertaking “with only ten employees, for a meagre sum of Rs 210 crores.”

The government had in November approved the sale of CEL, under the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research (DSIR), to Nandal Finance and Leasing for Rs 210 crore. The transaction was scheduled to be completed by March 2022.

Also read: Why the Privatisation of Central Electronics Limited Is Against India’s Interests

On January 12, the Union government put on hold the Letter of Intent for privatisation of CEL, announcing that an inter-ministerial group is examining certain allegations.

Of many allegations made by the CEL employees union, one relates against the general disinvestment policy of the government. Another relates to the absence of sectoral experience criteria in the letter.

“As superannuated CSIR people, we can recall that CEL got formed with the nucleus taken from a semi commercial plant set up in CSIR-National Physical Laboratory (NPL) for the manufacture of ferrites.  Two of CSIR laboratories, NPL and CEERI, had done arduous R&D to develop electronic materials needed in TV manufacture. CSIR, being an R&D set up, could not manufacture the materials at a  commercial level. Technology denial from the West was at its peak. Since then the CEL has been commercialising the indigenous technological developments, not only of CSIR, but also of IITs, RDSO,  DRDO and other publicly funded research organizations,” the signatories to the letter noted.

They also added that CEL has won prestigious awards and is a profit making cell.

“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,” they wrote.

Also read: People’s Commission Urges Parliament to ‘Fully Investigate’ CEL’s Sale

Irrespective of whether the land of CEL are a part of the bidding process or not, it does not make sense to ignore the intrinsic value of the CEL’s assets, tangible and intangible, including its brand value built over four decades, and the technical capabilities of its highly professional staff, including 130  engineers, the letter presents.

The letter has highlighted repeatedly CEL’s particular achievements, including the first solar cell, modules and power plant, along with others – made through its own research and development efforts.

Recently, CEL has taken a number of technologies from different national laboratories, institutions such as: Fused Silica Randome for Missile from DMRL/DRDO; and CVS Sensor from IIT Delhi and has developed products that are ready for commercialisation, it adds.

Noting that Atmanirbhar Bharat (‘self reliant India’, a coinage popularised by the Narendra Modi government) needs CEL in public sector, the signatories write that they are “puzzled” that when the Department of Electronics is planning to invest Rs 76,000 crores for the establishment of over 20 semiconductor design, components manufacturing and display fabrication units over the period of  next six years, there is a move to privatise it.

“The Union government cannot realise the dream of making India a hub for electronics and deepen India’s electronic manufacturing base without commercially exploiting indigenous technologies developed by National Laboratories and R&D institutions,” it adds.

Requesting the Union government to roll back the decision and retain and develop the CEL as a public sector undertaking, the signatories also point to the incompetence of the buyer.

“Analysis of books of accounts of M/s Nandal Finance & Leasing Private Limited indicates that the company is hardly doing any business. The Company has no fixed assets. It has no land and buildings, computer, laptops etc. It is a trading Company with no significant resources,” the letter adds.

“Not even a single employee has completed five years,” it says, highlighting other losses.

This will irrevocably hurt CEL, the signatories noted.

Their names are as follows:

T.S.R Prasad Rao, Former Director, CSIR-IIP
Vikram Kumar, Director (Retired), CSIR-NPL
H. R Bhojwani, Former Head, Research Planning and Business Development, CSIR HQ
R K Bhandari, Former Director CSIR-CBRI
Paul Ratnaswamy, Former Director, CSIR-NCL
Ehrlich Desa, Former Director, CSIR-NIO
Nagesh Iyer, Former Director, CSIR-SERC
P G Rao, Former Director CSIR-NEIST
Ashok Jain, Former Director, CSIR-NISTADS
Dinesh Abrol, Former Chief Scientist CSIR-NISTADS
Rajender Prasad, Former Head, International Scientific Affairs CSIR HQ
Naresh Sahajpal, Former Head, Research Planning and Business Development, CSIR HQ
Ram Prasad, Former Scientist G, International Affairs, CSIR HQ
B.C.Sharma, Former Scientist F, International Scientific Affairs CSIR HQ
Chandra Gupt, Former Scientist G, Human Resource Development, CSIR HQ
Arun Gomkale, Former Scientist G, IPR Division, CSIR HQ
Raghuvansh Saxena, Former Scientist G, CSIR HQ
H.Purushottam, Former Scientist , CSIR- CLRI, Former CMD NRDC
Tilak Basu, Former Scientist G, CSIR-CGCRI
S N Sharma, Former Scientist G, CSIR-IIP
B S Rawat, Former Scientist G, CSIR-IIP
O N Anand, Former Scientist G, CSIR-IIP
Mathew Abraham, Former Scientist G, CSIR-IIP
Lal Ji Dixit, Former Chief Scientist, CSIR-IIP
Amitabh Basu, Former Chief Scientist, CSIR-NPL
Gauhar Raza, Former Chief Scientist, CSIR-NISCAIR
P V S Kumar, Former Chief Scientist, CSIR-NISCAIR
Pardosh Nath, Former Chief Scientist CSIR-NISTADS
B V Reddy, Former Principal Scientist, CSIR-NPL
G.N.Kulshrestha, Former Scientist G, CSIR-IIP
Dinesh Chandra, Former Scientist G, CSIR-IIP
B.S.Saini, Former Scientist G, CSIR-IIP
Dr. Dhruv Raina, Former Scientist CSIR-NISTADS, Currently Professor JNU
Dr. Subodh Mahanti, Former Scientist CSIR-NISTADS, Retired as DScientist G Vigyan Prasar
Bapuji Maringanti, Former Chief Scientist RRL Bhubaneswar.