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June 10, 1998


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UF halted Maruti growth process: Bakht

Last year will be remembered as a year where the growth process in Maruti Udyog Limited was unnecessarily interrupted, Industry Minister Sikander Bakht said today defending his decision to go in for a smooth settlement with Suzuki Motor Corporation.

Charging the previous United Front government with dragging the impasse in the joint venture for a long period, Bakht told the media that he had always maintained that the dispute (between the Indian government and the SMC) is purely commercial. It would be tackled administratively, purely as a matter of difference of opinion between shareholders. He added, ''This is precisely what the present government had done''.

Rejecting the Opposition's demand for his resignation, Bakht said his predecessor had created an unfortunate situation wherein ''i am constrained to deviate from it''.

He said ignorance relating to the basic needs of MUL at the current juncture has led to some people to stray into uninformed comments overlooking the most vital consideration. MUL needs to pursue the process of growth without any hindrance.

Meanwhile, SMC has promised to extend full technical co-operation in introducing new models in the Indian market.

This was announced by MUL's new Chairman Y Saito, immediately after his appointment was ratified by the company's board of directors. Saito succeeds government nominee and petroleum secretary Probir Sengupta.

The board also approved the elevation of MUL Executive Director Jagdish Khattar as the joint managing director and the slashing of Managing Director R S S L N Bhaskarudu's term by two years, till 1999-end. These decisions were taken following the patch up between the government and SMC.

The deal has set the ball rolling for MUL, with the company deciding to despatch a high-level team to Japan to finalise new models. "The dispute between the Indian government and Suzuki has been resolved and now the only objective before us is the growth of the company and maintaining leadership,'' Baskarudu told the media after the board meeting.

Asked about the company's future plans, he said, "We will introduce new models in all segments to meet the challenge. Our endeavour will be to ensure that Maruti remains the leader in the industry."

Denying that the patch up was forced by the government's desperation to wriggle out of the sanctions imposed by Japan following the nuclear tests, he refused to comment on whether he has been let down by the government.

Additional reportage: UNI

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