The ‘patriotic’ Modi sarkar has sold off national assets worth Rs.1.25 lakh crore in its three and a half years of rule, beating all previous governments. It is pushing the pedal for selling off defence production units, railways, insurance companies and banks. This anti-national policy is causing massive anger among people, especially workers of these units. Lakhs of workers are congregating in Delhi on 9-11 November to protest against this policy, among other demands.
In a decade of its rule, the Congress led UPA had sold off Rs.1.14 lakh crore worth of public sector assets. The previous NDA govt. under AB Vajpayee had netted Rs.21,000 crore from such sales while in the previous decade of 1991-2001, successive govts. managed to pocket Rs.20,000 crore. (See Table)
In total, in the past 26 years, Indian govts. have managed to sell away over Rs.2.8 lakh crore worth of national assets to private industrialists. The BJP govts. led by Vajpayee and Modi, who claim to be motivated by the exalted ideals of nationalism and love for motherland, are responsible for more than half of this (52%) amount in a mere 7 years of their rule.
The sell-off has come at enormous costs. Workers in public sector units have suffered a deep erosion of their earnings or even been rendered jobless. Reservation for dalits and adivasis goes out of the window once privatization takes place and thus these deprived sections lose out on job opportunities and income security. The country’s valuable assets in the form of factories, machinery, offices, land and buildings, and other capital assets are handed over, often at a fraction of their actual value, to some private tycoon or other. Corruption is rampant in this process with allegations of crores of rupees being given as kickbacks in various scams. Moreover, the private entities that become the new owners, start gouging profits from the word go, and raising prices of whatever product or service they are selling.
The Modi sarkar has shown extra zeal in this selling spree. And, it has extended the canvas of privatization to include defence production, railways and airlines, apart from banks and insurance companies. Out of the total 273 products being made by the public sector ordinance factories 182 products are being handed over to be produced in the private sector. Thus the public sector ordinance factories are being deliberately pushed into low capacity utilisation and inevitable closure. 7 out of the 41 ordinance factories will have no work and 14 more will have around 50 per cent of their capacity made redundant. Jobs of around 50,000 of the total 1.10 lakh workers will be under threat. Not only the small armaments. High value products like combat aircraft, helicopters, submarines and other critical equipment, which were all produced by the defence PSUs, are now being offered to private corporate sector by the BJP government on nomination basis. With private companies involved in this sector, who can be assured of the country’s security? The BJP govt., which is constantly boasting of its support to soldiers is putting in place a plan to betray them.
Another major national asset on the auction block is Railways, the cheapest public transport in the country, utilised by crores of people every day. There are plans to sell off existent railway tracks to private train operators in both passenger and goods transport segments. It will decide fares and freight charges on the basis of cost. That means higher fares and freight charges. Tenders have been floated for 23 railway stations including Howrah, Mumbai, Chennai, Bangalore etc. for privatization.
The government has appointed Reliance Mutual Fund Managers to provide consultancy and execute its project of quick selling of 10 CPSUs strategic to our national economy including ONGC, GAIL, Oil India Limited, Indian Oil Corporation, Coal India Limited, BHEL, Bharat Electronics Limited, etc through the Exchange Traded Fund (ETF).
The government is also getting ready to privatise public sector banks and insurance companies to benefit the big national and international finance companies. It has decided that 25 per cent shares in all the five public sector general insurance companies will be sold to private companies, both Indian and foreign.
The public sector was built after Independence to put the country on the path of self reliant development. Most heavy industry, including key sectors like defence, railways, power generation, roads, steel, mining etc. were established by the govt through huge outlays of funds. Since the private industrialists of those days were unwilling to spend so much on things that would not give them profit, the govt. had to lay this foundation. It was products and services from this very public sector that enabled all the billionaires to reap their billions in the subsequent years. The public sector also enabled India to maintain an independent foreign policy and not allow foreign companies to take over the economy to suck out profits, as happened in many other newly independent countries. The public sector also provided massive employment, including jobs for dalits and adivasis through reservation. In short, the public sector played a crucial role in India’s economic development over these years.
Since the onset of policies demanding global integration and deregulation of economies in the early nineties, the whole approach shifted. Public sector was now seen as valuable assets that could be sold to private parties. This would have to benefits: the private buyers would be super happy to gobble up such industries and use them to lift their profits, and the government would get quick revenue.
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