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    June 2015

Saluting the lifeline of modern India


In 1954 while inaugurating the Bhakra Nangal dam, India’s first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, had termed public sector undertakings the “temples of modern India”. His words still hold true 60 years down the line. The PSUs have played a vital role in establishing the foundation of a self-generating industrial economy in India since the First Five-Year Plan rolled out five Central public sector enterprises with a total investment of Rs 29 crore. Today, there are over 250 PSUs which employ about 1.39 million persons and generate 5 per cent of total jobs in the organised sector of India. The 2014-15 budget allocated Rs 319,001 crore for investment in PSUs whose gross turnover is nearly 25 per cent of the country's GDP and 8 per cent of its total export earnings. 

The fourth edition of the BT-Star PSU Excellence Awards held in New Delhi on May 15 this year was an attempt to recognise the contribution of the State-owned behemoths to nation-building. These awards are an effort to recognize the vital contribution of the “unsung heroes” in building a robust Indian economy. In just a period of four years since their conception in 2012, the BT-Star PSU Excellence Awards which pioneered the trend of recognizing and appreciating the role of public sector enterprises in nation-building have come a long way to become India’s most prestigious, credible and sought-after honour for PSUs. 

During the crucial period of 2008 when the nations across the globe were facing the economic meltdown crisis, it was the PSUs which played the key role in steering India’s economy in the right direction. However, there is no denying the fact that some PSUs have become white elephants and some are facing in-house challenges while there are others which have been facing stiff competition from private firms ever since the economy was liberalised in 1991. In a statement in the Rajya Sabha last year, Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had strongly asked the PSUs to function like any other business organisation in a competitive environment and not run like a Government department.

Nevertheless, we have ample reasons to believe and be confident about the ability of our public sector to operate in an open environment. Our PSUs have done extremely well and are now poised to grow even faster in the years to come. Today, more and more PSUs are striving hard to become active global players. Over the years, the number of profit-making public sector enterprises has increased steadily. Those which were facing losses are also making a turnaround in a big way under the leadership of visionary professionals and are ready to face new challenges in an increasingly competitive world.  

Innovation is the name of the game. The PSUs cannot afford to remain satisfied with the status quo in a world where technology is changing at an unimaginable fast pace. There should be a continuing and sustained effort on the part of the PSUs to improve their performance and productivity by paying increasing attention to research and development and to operate on the frontiers of modern scientific and technological knowledge.
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