Ranchi, Jan 25 (PTI) Around 1,300 staff of Heavy Engineering Corporation (HEC), the PSU that some years ago built a launch pad for ISRO, have not been paid their salaries for over a year forcing them to live in penury, and now they have threatened to move court if the issue is not addressed soon.
The employees alleged that because of this situation, they are unable to pay their children’s education fees or treat ailing family members properly, and some of them including officers have started selling fruits or tea to make both ends meet.
Workers and officers of the Ranchi-based PSU have formed a combined forum, HEC Adhikari Evam Karmachari Jankalyan Sangh, to fight the battle.
Its president Prem Shankar Paswan told PTI that they have drawn the attention of President Droupadi Murmu, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Chief Justice of India D Y Chandrachud, the NHRC and others to their plight through emails on January 23.
“If our problem is not resolved soon, we will have to move court in February,” Paswan said.
The total salary due for officers is for 15 months while that for workers is for 12 months, said Subhash Chandra, a deputy manager rank official. The chairman and managing director of BHEL, who sits in Delhi, holds the additional charge of CMD of HEC. The official did not respond to phone calls, messages and email by PTI till the publication of this report.
The company, set up in 1958, used to be one of the leading suppliers of capital equipment in India for steel, mining, railways, power, defence, space research, nuclear and strategic sectors.
Employees are staging protests against non-payment of salaries since November 2022.
"My mother died without treatment. My senior colleague's wife died and he had no money to hire a vehicle to carry her body so he took it inside a car trunk. Shopkeepers don't give us goods on credit. We can't afford to send kids to school. We will die here,” Shashi Kumar, 35, a deputy manager at HEC, broke down while talking to PTI.
Despite several revival attempts and the High Court of Jharkhand directing the central and state governments to look into the problems, the situation at HEC did not improve.
A worker, Ramjanam Sharma, said he ekes out by selling fruits while several others including IIT pass-outs are forced to sell tea, fritters or flowers for existence.
Purnendu Dutt Mishra, 37, who is a manager at HEC, said: "India used to import ISRO's launching pad at much higher rates. In 2005-06, we got an order. An organisation hidden in the country provided the indigenously built launching pad at much less price.” After the launch of GSLV Mark III on December 18, 2014, the PSU had said in a statement: “It is a matter of great pride for HEC to have contributed to the Second Launch Pad Project of ISRO at Sriharikota. With every launch from the second launch pad, ISRO makes HEC proud.” Mishra alleged that mismanagement, corruption and bad policies were behind the plight of HEC.
"Unlike private organisations, we don't work for profit but work for the nation. We have saved a huge foreign exchange,” he said.
Dr Rana S Chakravarty, who retired from HEC as Director of Marketing on January 16, is keeping his fingers crossed that the company will be back on track.
"HEC has played a stellar role in India's growth... We are focussing on certain specific areas. We have a Rs 1300 crore work order... Hopefully, it will be on track again," he said.
According to the HEC’s latest annual report, the company bagged orders totalling over Rs 188 crore in FY 21-22.
“However, the pending up-gradation / modernisation, as well as severe stress of working capital and impact of COVID-19, adversely affected the financial performance of the company and it could achieve turnover of Rs 184.69 crore against Rs 202.76 crore during the previous year,” it said.
HEC registered a net loss of Rs 256.07 crore in 2021-22.
“Frequent breakdown of the ageing machinery has affected the execution of orders while also indirectly affecting the cash flow cycle,” the annual report said. PTI NAM/SAN NN NN