The employees are worst sufferers in the whole story of HMT unit in Pinjore going bust. There are about 1,100 employees in tractor division here who have not got salaries for 17 months while in machine tools division, salaries of about 350 employees have not been disbursed for 10 months. Even the top officials of the management are not getting salaries.
“We are still hoping for some solution. We have not struck work. We have not resorted to any reactionary method,” said DD Batra, vice-president of HMT Karmik Sangh.
Meanwhile, Union minister for heavy industries Anant Geethe has written a letter to Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar on December 15, asking the state government whether it would like to take over the HMT complex in Pinjore, measuring 837acres, but in return it would have to fund voluntary retirement scheme (VRS)/voluntary separation scheme (VSS) package of the employees. The ministry had put a rider that the compensation should be as per the circle rate of the land. The HMT’s Pinjore land is located at a prime location on the Panchkula-Shimla highway, but the government and HMT are currently locked in a legal battle over its ownership.
Geethe had mentioned that carrying out the unit’s operations had become “unviable financially as well as economically” and the ministry had tried to resurrect it but in vain. The state government is yet to take any decision on Geethe’s offer but sources said the government wouldn’t take liability. However, the CM said they would try to find out an amicable solution and employees would not suffer.
The employees are aware of the losses the Pinjore unit had been incurring, but the management says they were not consulted at all before writing to the state government. “We should get our salaries. We have not been paid for months. We should be transferred to some other ministry like railways but the unit should continue to function. Pinjore has been famous because of HMT and many ancillary units had come up around the unit,” said Batra.
He added that the heavy industries ministry had written to the government earlier in August and the December 15 letter was just a reminder.
According to union leaders, the HMT got affected after the privatisation of economy but the real downward trend started in 2000. “There was no vision. Mismanagement and lack of modernisation led to the downfall,” he said.
According to Batra, about 100 tractors are being produced every month with a loss of Rs 5 crore every month. The losses are mounting for the last 15 years. An official at HMT told HT that they could run the unit if the government was ready to support them. “A package of Rs 1,083 crore was given to the unit in 2013 but only Rs 45 crore could be spent for the unit as the rest went in meeting employees’ salaries and other benefits,” said an official. “We should be given a chance,” he said.
Vijay Bansal, president of Shiwalik Vikas Manch, who has been supporting the employees’ cause, said, “HMT unit is a lifeline of Pinjore. Its closure would have an impact on other small units. HMT unit could work even if the government pays back its Rs 200 crore which is pending with them.”
The erstwhile state of Punjab gifted around 837 acres of land to HMT on August 23, 1962 for setting up an industrial unit. It started functioning in 1963 when Jawaharlal Nehru inaugurated it. In 1971, the tractor division was started. The HMT filed a civil suit in 2003 for rectification of revenue entries regarding ownership of land in their name. On July 23, 2008, the order came in HMT’s favour. The state government filed an appeal before the district judge which was decided on October 31, 2011.The district judge’s order said the state government was the owner of the land while the possession would remain with the HMT unless the terms and conditions of the gift deed were violated. HMT filed an appeal before the high court which is still pending.
According to the state government officials, if HMT closes down the shop the government can take over the land and there is no point in extending financial benefit to employees.