The Brahmaputra Valley Fertilizer Corporation Limited (BVFCL), a public sector undertaking situated in Assam’s Namrup is staring down the abyss, according to reports that claimed that the fertilizer plant is looking increasingly likely to be shut down in the coming time.
The only fertilizer manufacturing unit in the entire northeast, BVFCL now faces a similar fate as the paper mills in Assam’s Nagaon and Cachar. This was after a discussion on the same during the ongoing monsoon session of Lok Sabha revealed startling facts about the plant.
Congress MP from Assam’s Kaliabor, Gaurav Gogoi today put up a question on the revival of the Namrup fertilizer plant at the Lok Sabha to which Bhagwanth Khuba, the Minister of State for New and Renewable Energy of India replied that the Group of Officers meeting chaired by the NITI Aayog recommended the closure of the fertilizer factory and the privatization or closure of other insignificant public enterprises.
As a result, it has now become clear what the future holds for this fertilizer factory in Assam. It may be mentioned that Prime Minister Narendra had announced the setting up of the fourth plant at the BVFCL during his 100 day economic analysis after taking oath as the Prime Minister of India.
He also approved the construction of the fourth plant. Following that, Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma had also shown eagerness at progressing plans for the same. However, in spite of all that, the fourth plant of the fertilizer factory never came to be.
As of now, the first and second plants of the factory have been shut down. The third plant which is still operational produces 600 to 700 metric tons of fertilizer on a daily basis bringing some relief to the regional farmers.
It came to the fore recently that the Centre is looking to disinvest in those chemical fertilizer producing industries that have either already shut operations or have been revived by allowing the privatization of such businesses, following the meeting chaired by NITI Aayog. The news has left all the employees of the Namrup fertilizer plant in disarray, worrying for their futures.
There have been several protests in the past taken out by employees’ union of the plant, various organizations and political parties over demands to stop the sale process of the Namrup fertilizer plant. Amidst all this, the factory's chairman and managing director, Dr. Siba Prasad Mohanty, reassured the employees and workers that there were still resources to keep the factory alive.
The plant which was set up in the 60s on a sprawling campus, has for some time incurred losses. Currently, the losses have come down. In the year 2019-20, the fertilizer plant incurred losses to the tune of Rs 134 crores, while in the year 2020-21, the losses came down to Rs 97 crores.
On the other hand, between October 1, 2021 and September 2022, the third plant of the Namrup fertilizer factory managed to increase production of urea by up to 80 per cent on a daily basis resulting in the losses coming further down by Rs 30 crores in 2021-22.
The Namrup fertilizer plant is expected to make a profit of Rs 30 crores in 2022-2023 after the annual planned technical repairs of the factory's third unit. Along with its own products, BVFCL has retained the title of leading Fertilizer Starters by expanding its marketing to five states of the country with its own urea trading business.
On the other hand, the factory authorities held discussions with Assam CM Himanta Biswa Sarma to build the fourth unit of the fertilizer plant. Dr. Siba Prasad Mohanty, said that the Chief Minister strongly supported the establishment of the fourth gate of the factory and also said that he stressed taking loans from banks along with the partnership of Oil India, Government of Assam and BVFCL.
On the other hand, the central government had allocated Rs 100 crores to the fertilizer plant. Out of this amount, Rs 33 crores was earmarked for the repair works of unit 2 of the factory which was closed for nearly three years and the remaining amount has been allotted for repair of unit 3.
Thus, the news of the gradual moving of the fertilizer plants towards profitable industries has now led to a chaotic situation in Namrup. The workers and employees of the factory have criticized the Central and state governments and threatened to protest. Moreover, they have also appealed Assam MPs to raise their voices in the Parliament to keep the fertilizer plant alive.