New Delhi: India’s state-owned enterprises are striking a fine balance between their business and larger social welfare goals, while earning a global name for their expertise, senior government ministers said.

Speaking at the Hindustan Ratna PSU Awards 2018 ceremony on Wednesday, ministers Piyush Goyal, Dharmendra Pradhan and Mahesh Sharma in the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government highlighted the role played by state-owned enterprises in key areas of corporate governance, social responsibility and environment protection, besides their ability to garner a large share of the global market.

Railways, coal and finance minister Piyush Goyal and oil minister Dharmendra Pradhan at the ceremony. Photo: Sushil Kumar/HT
Railways, coal and finance minister Piyush Goyal and oil minister Dharmendra Pradhan at the ceremony. Photo: Sushil Kumar/HT

Dharmendra Pradhan, minister for petroleum and natural gas and skill development and entrepreneurship, said no private company pursues the goals that a public sector unit (PSU) does—earning revenue for the exchequer, creating jobs and meeting the basic needs of the country.

“PSUs do not solely work for profit making. They balance this goal with social welfare. Our PSUs’ efficiency comes to light when we compare their output and the effort they put in to overcome challenges, with that of state-run companies in other economies."

Giving the example of Engineers India Ltd (EIL), which has executed major refinery and petrochemical complexes globally, Pradhan said that if India’s state-owned enterprises want, they can capture half of the global market. “EIL has become a global name in engineering consultancy today."

Railways, finance and coal minister Piyush Goyal said state-run firms contribute significantly to the economy and serve people, but there is a need to change the negative perception on their work culture. “The PSU work culture should be seen in a positive way. We have to work towards that. People retire from PSUs and give extraordinary performance in the private sector. It is not that people give better performance after retirement."

Goyal said that running a public sector undertaking has many challenges. In addition, there are many public layers and transparency has to be ensured.

“Everything has to be process-driven and there are no shortcuts," Goyal said.

Mahesh Sharma, minister for culture and environment, forest and climate change, said the government is working towards meeting projects in a time-bound manner and recognizing the efforts of PSUs will incentivize better performance.

The minister said the foundation stone for the new airport in the national capital region (NCR) at Jewar, on the outskirts of Greater Noida, will be laid in October. “In three years, it will be ready. This will be the largest airport in the country, spread over 5,000 acres."

Pradhan said that sometimes, in pursuing the twin objectives of business and social commitments, state-owned firms lose the balance between the two and end up making losses. Once trapped in the vicious circle of making losses, turning things around is a challenge, admitted the minister.

He added that oil firms, whose core tasks include exploration and production of crude oil, refining and building infrastructure, also strive to serve the common man in improving access to clean and affordable sources of energy.

“Till four years ago, out of the 27 crore households in the country, 13 crore had access to liquefied petroleum gas (LPG). Today, 23 crore households have access to LPG. About 10 crore new LPG connections have been given in the last four years alone. When we complete our fifth year in office, we would have given roughly 13 crore new connections," the minister said, adding that it has been made possible because PSUs had clarity in their priorities.

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