They were once groomed to face external competition. Now they are planning to make them touch global horizons. A select list of profitable public sector undertakings (PSUs) are set to get more autonomy under a plan that awaits cabinet approval.
The Department of Public Enterprises (DPE) in a draft cabinet note has proposed the according of a “Maharatna” tag to six of its top PSUs, taking the story forward from the “Navaratna” days.
These firms include the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation, Indian Oil Corporation, Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd, Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd, NTPC Ltd and Steel Authority of India Ltd.
The anointed “Maharatnas” will be free to form joint ventures, while their boards can approve without government nod investments of up to Rs. 5,000 crore--- up from the current Rs. 1,000 crore. They will also enjoy more powers to decide on floating overseas firms and on mergers and acquisitions up to a certain size.
While declining to give details, a senior official from the ministry of heavy industries said, “This is part of our internal exercise. All I can say that the selection is based on a strict qualifying criterion of turnover, net worth, profitability and overseas presence.”
DPE sources said the department is under immense pressure from various ministries to include more PSUs in this list. The Petroleum Ministry wants special status for the smaller oil refiners as well.