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RSS arm says divestment of Air India, BPCL was 'uncalled for'

By Archis Mohan
December 02, 2019 11:47 IST

In a resolution passed at its national assembly in Haridwar, the SJM said the Modi government’s proposed strategic divestment of PSEs was an “imprudent business decision” and “against national interest”.

Illustration: Uttam Ghosh/Rediff.com

In a repeat of what happened five years back when the Narendra Modi government had to surrender its reforms agenda, particularly its Land Acquisition bill, in the face of opposition from within the Sangh Parivar, the government on Sunday faced renewed resistance from Swadeshi Jagran Manch (SJM) on the issue of privatising public sector enterprises (PSEs).

 

The Modi government has proposed strategic sale in PSEs, including in profit-making Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited (BPCL), to meet its divestment target, which would help shore up GST (goods and services tax) revenue shortfalls and manage the mounting fiscal deficit.

The SJM is an economic think tank affiliated to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).

In a resolution passed at its national assembly in Haridwar, the SJM said the Modi government’s proposed strategic divestment of PSEs was an “imprudent business decision” and “against national interest”.

“A white paper is needed on the previous divestment of HPCL, where ONGC acquired the equity.

"How has this benefited the operations of HPCL,” the SJM asked.

On the strategic sale in BPCL, it said there “are rumours that the Saudi Aramco is eyeing these assets.”

"This is not only unacceptable but also dangerous. The asset created with the national sentiments and hard work shouldn’t land up in the lap of the foreign oil companies - who see these assets only as a statistic to swell their valuation,” it said.

Not just SJM, but the Congress, Trinamool Congress and Left parties oppose privatisation and disinvestment of 28 PSEs.

On Wednesday, Congress leader Jairam Ramesh said in the Rajya Sabha that the government was resorting to "panic privatisation" by selling profit-making PSEs, particularly BPCL.

On Sunday, outfits representing Dalit interests held a protest at the Ramlila Ground in the national capital to protest stake sale in PSEs.

The Congress and Samajwadi Party supported the protest.

The Congress has planned a protest at the same venue on December 14.

All central trade unions, barring RSS-affiliated Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS), have announced an ‘all India strike’ on January 8.

All leading opposition parties support the strike. Apart from divestment, the trade unions oppose the Industrial Relations Code, 2019 and the Bill to amend the MSME Act.

The Modi government introduced the Industrial Relations Code Bill in the Lok Sabha last week.

On Friday, the BMS demanded that the Bill be referred to a standing committee so that some of its contentious clauses are redrafted.

It said the Bill, if passed, will lead to “jungle raj” in the country’s industrial complexes.

Recently, the SJM had led the campaign against India joining the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) free trade pact with Asean countries.

The Congress and Left parties had also opposed India joining RCEP.

Meanwhile, several states have complained of not getting their share of revenues from the Centre.

On Sunday, Kerala Finance Minister Thomas Isaac tweeted: “GST Council must be convened at the earliest to discuss compensation payment dispute between the Centre and states.

"The central government has defaulted the payment.

"Law says that compensation must be paid in bi-monthly instalments.

"Today we enter the fourth month without payment.”

In its resolution, the SJM demanded that the Modi government junk the NITI Aayog’s report on PSEs.

“The government has no business to be in business, but resist the plan to handover the national assets to corporate houses of multinational corporations (MNCs) at throw away prices,” SJM’s Ashwani Mahajan said.

The SJM said the divestment of Air India and BPCL was “uncalled for”.

“There is a need for fair assessment of the PSEs - their potential, strategic need, turnaround probability, market utility and then the divestment strategy is required,” it said.

“Close scrutiny of Air India’s financial and other documents reveals that the restructuring of Air India’s debts and assets can not only reduce the liabilities for the company but also spin the national carrier back into profits,” it said.

"A major chunk of the losses is because of the servicing of the debt.

"This debt is taken because of the bad decision making (with mala-fide intentions)...

"A developing country like, India needs the national carrier for strategic and market balancing requirements," it said.

The SJM said Niti Ayog report is a handiwork of a "few consultants (who continue to work on game plan of vested interests)".

The SJM said the Modi government’s move regarding PSEs was the "result of cahoots of certain consultants, bureaucrats influenced by some business house”.

The resolution passed by SJM said it is time to resist such moves and safeguard the “national assets”.

Archis Mohan in New Delhi
Source: source
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