This article appeared in THE HINDU –

Chairman and Managing Director of Fertilizers and Chemicals Travancore (FACT) Jaiveer Sreevastava met the new Union Minister for Chemicals and Fertilizers, Ananth Kumar, on Wednesday raising the prospects of the financially-troubled public sector company clinching a new deal to overcome its troubles.

The new Minister assumed office on Wednesday. Mr. Sreevastava told The Hindu over telephone from New Delhi that his was a courtesy call on the new Minister. “Let’s us hope that everything moves as expected,” he said and added “we have a dynamic Minister and we hope that things will fall in place”.

Media reports from Delhi cited Mr. Ananth Kumar as saying on Wednesday morning that urea units across the country that were now shut would be revived. The new government under Prime Minister Narendra Modi aimed to achieve self-sufficiency in chemical fertilizer production, said the reports.

Statement welcomed

Spokesman for Save FACT Action Committee, which has spearheaded a 220-day protest action to draw the attention of the government to the problems facing the company, welcomed the Union Minister’s statement on revival of urea plants in the country.

He said that the Minister had, through his statement, conceded the demand they had been raising for a long time. FACT’s urea plant with an installed capacity of 3.3 lakh tonnes per year was shut down in April 2003 as part of a national policy.

Eleven urea plants were shut down across the country as it was argued that importing urea was cheaper than producing it in India. However, with the market conditions changing rapidly, the erstwhile UPA government firmed up plans to revive eight of the urea plants. But the programme was not followed up.

Meanwhile, the issues facing FACT is also one of the items that top the agenda of Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, who is scheduled to meet the Prime Minister on June 2.

Call for march

Kerala Samsthana Karshaka Sanghatana, a union of farmers in the State, has called for a march to FACT office on Thursday expressing solidarity with the protesting workers of the fertilizer company. FACT workers have been demanding that the government approve a Rs. 991-crore revival package and that natural gas be made available to the company at affordable rates.