The Narendra Modi government’s four-year National Monetisation Pipeline (NMP) plan, which aims to monetise assets worth Rs 6 lakh crore, has triggered an array of protests by trade unions and Left parties in Tamil Nadu. Union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s assurance that the plan will not lead to privatisation has not found any takers among the trade unions.
The Nilgiri Mountain Railway (NMR), four airports, 491.5 km of national highways, three projects in V.O. Chidambaranar Port (Tuticorin) and the Gas Authority of India pipeline in the Cauvery Basin are in the list of assets to be monetised in Tamil Nadu.
AIRPORTS AND SEAPORT LISTED
Monetisation of the airports at Trichy, Coimbatore, Madurai and Chennai is expected to fetch Rs 4,694 crore.
“The permission for public-private partnership (PPP) model to monetise the port and the airports is dangerous. The profit-driven policy of private players could compromise national security as well,” said G. Sukumaran, state general secretary, Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU).
CITU and BSNLEU members protest in Vellore.
The assets of VOC Port, including the north cargo berth-III and five other berths, are worth Rs 2,999 crore. Narendra Rao, general secretary of the Water Transport Workers Federation of India (WTWFI) said, “Of the two ports in Tamil Nadu, projects in the VOC Port have been listed for monetisation. The government is trying to make money by selling the assets of the people. This will impact country in the long run.”
NMR, HIGHWAYS AND GAS PIPELINE
The Nilgiris district committee of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) condemned the inclusion of the historic NMR in the NMP list and warned of more protests.
“The government has decided to monetise the current and the potential toll roads. Commuters are already paying high tolls. If these four-lane and higher-lane roads are monetised, the toll rates will increase,” said Sukumaran.
The Centre also intends to monetise railway stations, passenger trains and goods sheds worth Rs 1,52,496 crore. “Out of the 400 A-class railway stations, 27 stations are in Tamil Nadu. The government has also announced privatisation of 90 out of 150 trains introduced earlier. The dedicated freight corridor has also been included in the list,” said R Elangovan, vice-president, Dakshin Railway Employees Union.
The Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh, affiliated with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, has also opposed the NMP.
“If the BJP government continues with its selling spree, nothing will be left for public utilities; everything will be controlled by a few private players,” added Sukumaran.
PROTEST AGAINST MONETISATION PIPELINE
The CITU called for a state-wide protest after the union finance minister announced the NMP. Workers across different sectors have been protesting against the decision.
CITU members protest the national monetisation plan in Virudhunagar.
“The CITU Tamil Nadu state committee has called for a state-wide protest against the insensitive move of the BJP government. The move to monetise very crucial sector will impact the economic growth and employment,” said S Kannan, deputy general secretary, CITU, Tamil Nadu unit.
“The number of public sector undertakings in Tamil Nadu is very less. Major government organisations, including the Railways and the BSNL, which provide employment, will be monetised. It will result in job loss and increase in unemployment,” Kannan added.
The trade unions have decided to intensify their protests. “The strong protests by the trade unions restricted the Centre’s privatisation spree. The workers of Salem Steel Plant (Tamil Nadu) prevented its privatisation. More such protests will be held to stop the BJP government’s plans,” said Sukumaran.