Major maritime unions on Thursday threatened to go on a nation-wide strike to protest against the government's move to privatise Dredging Corporation of India (DCI), saying it is not in the national interest as the PSU is privy to sensitive defence information. On November 1, the government had approved sale of its entire 73.47 per cent stake in the DCI, which is being opposed by its workers. The ongoing dispute between the DCI and its employees is likely to escalate into a major stand-off between Indian seafarers and the central government, said the National Union of Seafarers of India (NUSI) and the Maritime Union of India (MUI), adding that they are planning a nation-wide agitation against the disinvestment. "Since its inception in 1976, the DCI continues to serve Indian ports at low margins and also executes dredging contracts on behalf of the Indian Navy. The DCI is thus privy to vital and sensitive defence-related information.
Privatising profit-making DCI is hence not in the interest of the nation's interest," Abdulgani Serang, General Secretary, NUSI, told PTI. Serang further said the NUSI will launch a nation-wide agitation of Indian seafarers if the Government of India fails to accept our legitimate demand. Amar Singh Thakur, General Secretary, MUI, said: "Liquidating a majority stake of the DCI in favour of private players will be a huge blow to the country's exchequer as dredging charges might shoot up phenomenally. Also, vital marine installations at Indian ports will be exposed to foreign workforce employed for dredging activities by private players." Moreover, privatisation of the DCI will demoralise Indian marine workforce keen on serving the country's buoyant dredging sector, he pointed out, adding that its current workforce might lose their jobs and unemployment in the sector may grow. The DCI is a Miniratna public sector company, which is in the business of dredging and the main seaports where it operates are Vishakhapatnam Port, Haldia, Kandla, Cochin Port and Ennore Port. Earlier, the non-executive workers' union of the company had threatened to launch an indefinite strike and go for an agitation. Opposing the divestment plan, the company workers, including shore-based executives, had gone on a mass leave on November 21 at Visakhapatnam. The company earlier said its management is holding discussions with the union to avert any strike. The disinvestment of the government's entire stake in the company could fetch about Rs 1,400 crore to the exchequer. The dredging company is under the administrative control of the shipping ministry.