23 November, 2020

Acrepolis: A Plot Hijacked

Did Arun Shourie gift the Tatas 773 acres of land which should have been demerged before VSNL’s disinvestment but wasn’t?

AFP (From Outlook, March 28, 2011)
Acrepolis: A Plot Hijacked

Buy one, get one free is a time-honoured way to sell merchandise. But when the same principle is applied to the sale of a crown jewel, it attracts controversy. This is what happened nearly nine years ago, when the NDA government disinvested in Videsh Sanchar Nigam Ltd (VSNL) in favour of the Tatas. It gave away for Rs 1,439 crore a strategic public sector undertaking (PSU) flush with cash reserves, a monopoly over international and STD calls, infrastructure worth hundreds of crore and over 1,200 acres of land. Of this, 773.13 acres was surplus (a land bank meant for future expansion) and at least 387 acres should have come back to the government and the rest to earlier shareholders.

However, neither Arun Shourie as the disinvestment minister nor Pradip Baijal as secretary in the same ministry were paying much attention to this huge land bank circa 2002. The book value (when VSNL procured the land in the ’80s) of this 773 acres, distributed in Delhi’s prime Greater Kailash area and Chhattarpur, Pune,...



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