‘Atrocious’: CTUs Flay Monetisation of PSUs’ Surplus Land
Image Courtesy: All Policies
Flaying it for facilitating “loot of national assets”, the Central Trade Unions on Friday condemned the latest move of the Central Government to monetise surplus land and buildings of government agencies and public sector enterprises over which the spectre of privatisation looms.
The “atrocious” decision will cause “unimaginable loss to national interests,” said one union leader in a statement released on Friday. It once again reinforces the “need of an intensified struggle” by the working people under which such moves are “resisted from time to time,” argued another leader, while speaking to NewsClick.
On Wednesday, the Narendra Modi – led Central government approved the setting up of the National Land Monetisation Corporation (NLMC) to undertake monetisation of non-core assets of Central Public Sector Enterprises (CPSEs) and generate substantial revenues from these otherwise “unused and under-used assets.”
The special purpose vehicle will be set up as a wholly-owned Government of India company with an initial authorised share capital of Rs. 5,000 crore and paid-up share capital of Rs 150 crore, according to the official statement.
The statement added that the NLMC is also expected to own, hold, manage and monetise surplus land and building assets of CPSEs under closure and the surplus non-core land assets of government-owned CPSEs under strategic disinvestment. “This will speed up the closure process of CPSEs and smoothen the strategic disinvestment process of government-owned CPSEs,” it said.
While the Centre aims to invite the private sector investments and generate financial resources through NLMC, the latest move hasn’t gone down well with the trade unions in the country.
The NLMC is conceived to practically operate as a kind of “real estate agent,” to preside over and operationalise the sale of huge land and other assets like buildings, among others at the disposal of various PSUs and Departmental Undertakings like Railways, Defence, and Telecom, Tapan Sen, general secretary of Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) said on Friday.
“The huge prime landed assets with the PSUs and DPSUs could very well be utilised for expansion and modernisation of those profit-making and core sector PSUs and DPSUs which are making regular and recurring contributions to the national exchequer. But a Govt married with the notorious philosophy to privatise the state-owned undertakings in entirety in favour of their corporate masters is not expected to be committed to such basic economic prudence,” Sen argued.
Amarjeet Kaur, general secretary, All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC), opined the same. While speaking to NewsClick in a telephone interview, she condemned the setting up of NLMC by choosing to not identify its aim as “asset monetisation,” but “organised loot of national assets by the corporate lobby.”
“First, this government came after the lands of farmers by introducing three farm laws. Now, when that move failed, the Modi government is looking to transfer the ownership of huge land available with the public sector,” Kaur said.
She added that the CTUs would protest against this by taking it up during the upcoming two-day nationwide general strike – 10 CTUs jointly call for March 28 and 29.
On Wednesday, the Centre said that NLMC in the days to come would hire professionals from the private sector just as in the case of similar specialised government companies like the National Investment and Infrastructure Fund (NIIF) and Invest India, adding that this was considering that real estate monetisation requires specialised skills and expertise in areas such as market research, legal, due diligence, valuation, master planning, investment banking and land management.
Much before Wednesday’s announcement, media reports were already abuzz with the huge land assets of the government departments, highlighting that the Rail and Defence ministries are the biggest government landowners in the country.
According to the latest government data, the total land available with the Railways is 4.78 lakh hectares (11.80 lakh acres), of which 4.27 lakh hectares is under operational and allied usage. In contrast, around 0.51 lakh hectare (1.25 lakh acres) is vacant. The Defence Ministry, the biggest landowner, has about 17.95 lakh acres, of which around 1.6 lakh acres is within the 62 cantonments, and about 16.35 lakh acres outside their boundaries, according to data from the Directorate General, Defence Estates.
The “selling spree” of national assets by the Modi government reinforces “the need of an intensified struggle,” which is already underway as part of the movement against the wholesale privatisation of public sector enterprises, Kaur of AITUC told NewsClick.
“The Centre is now looking to achieve the same through a piecemeal approach. What is now needed is to resist such moves too by staging sectoral protests from time to time,” she said.
Get the latest reports & analysis with people's perspective on Protests, movements & deep analytical videos, discussions of the current affairs in your Telegram app. Subscribe to NewsClick's Telegram channel & get Real-Time updates on stories, as they get published on our website.