Business Interview

Dr S K Das, Chairman & Managing Director of FCI 
Aravali Gypsum and Minerals India Limited (FAGMIL)

“We are set to increase our turnover and profit”

Dr S K Das needs no introduction. With a vast experience of more than 21 years in various public sector undertakings, he took over as the Chairman & Managing Director of the FCI Aravali Gypsum and Minerals India Limited (FAGMIL) on March 8, 2011. FAGMIL is a public sector undertaking set up by the Government of India. Dr Das, who immensely values both human and natural resources, managed to secure the “Miniratna – II” status for FAGMIL in 2012. Talking to India Empire’s Sanjay Kaw, Dr Das said the major thrust of the public sector undertaking is on the agriculture sector rather than the cement plants
What is the status of the gypsum reserves in the country?
About 96 per cent of gypsum reserves are in Rajasthan. The rest of the mineral is in Himachal Pradesh. But no one is mining gypsum in Himachal Pradesh since the reserves are in Kinnaur district, about 400 km away from Shimla. Even though the quality of gypsum reserves is very high, the steep transportation costs make it economically unviable as a product in the market.

Which public sector undertakings are mining gypsum in Rajasthan?
About 25 per cent of the gypsum is mined by the FAGMIL. And the rest is mined by the Rajasthan State Mines and Minerals Limited (RSMML), a leading and progressive undertaking of the state government. Each year, about 9 lakh tonnes of gypsum is mined by FAGMIL and about 33 lakh tonnes by the RSMML.

Of late, you have been supplying more gypsum to the agriculture sector than the Cement industry. Why?
Ours is the Agrion economy and development cannot be brought in without improving the rural economy. The Green Revolution not only made us self-reliant in the food grain production but also increased the per capita income of the people living in rural India. But with the excessive use of chemical fertilizers such as urea, lakhs of hectares of land lost their fertility and the soil turned alkaline. We took the initiative to reclaim the alkaline soil and started the production of agriculture grade gypsum powder. The powder is used as a micro nutrient for sulphur deficient soil and also for reclamation of “usar / sodic land” into agricultural land.

Tell us more about the process of land reclamation?
The increase of sodium in the soil results in the decline in production of food grains especially wheat and rice. The FAGMIL in association with state-level agencies like the Uttar Pradesh State Agro Industrial Corporation Limited, Uttar Pradesh Bhumi Sudhar Nigam Limited and Haryana Land Reclamation Development Corporation has aimed to reverse the decline of productivity through sustainable reclamation of sodic land. First, the gypsum powder is scientifically mixed with the soil. After some days when water gets drained out, it washes out harmful salts from the soil. This makes the land ready for the first paddy crop. This is followed by the winter crop of wheat and an intermediary crop of “Dhaincha”, for which a nitrogen fixing green manure is needed to replenish the soil before the second paddy plants are planted. Two or three cycles of these crops along with an efficient drainage system turns the once-barren sodic land into a rich agricultural land for growing oil seeds, vegetables and flowers.

There is a boom in the infrastructure sector. What role does FAGMIL play in this sector?
Though we are the leaders in the supply of agriculture grade gypsum in the country, but we are also supplying quality gypsum to the cement plants. We are supplying about 20 per cent of total gypsum used by various cement plants in the country. But our thrust is more on the agriculture sector.

Gypsum reserves have started shrinking. What are the measures you are taking in this direction?
Yes, this is a major challenge before us. We are now in the process of mining other minerals like limestone, feldspar and rock phosphate. Most of the rock phosphate is in Rajasthan. But the state policies restrict us from mining this mineral. While framing the policy, the state had not taken consent of the Centre. Now, the Union Government has asked the state to amend this policy. Once we start mining rock phosphate, we will set up a super phosphate unit in Chittorgarh. This will automatically increase our turnover three times. In future, we may also acquire some raw phosphate mines in Egypt.

How much profit you are making right now?
We had a profit of about Rs 19 crore last year. But we are expecting this profit to go up to Rs 27 crore this year.

What were your major achievements during the previous year?
In the 2010-11 financial year, we paid a dividend @ 33.5 per cent to the Union Government, which is the highest among all the fertilizer PSUs in the country.

April 2012

click here to enlarge

 >> Cover Story
 >> From the Editor