A day after Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman unveiled the government’s four-year National Monetisation Pipeline (NMP) worth Rs 6 lakh crore, former Congress President Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of bringing in the process of selling the “crown jewel” assets built by his party in the last 70 years.
He also contended that the Congress is not opposing the privatisation process but “the entire NMP is designed to create a monopoly”.
Addressing a press conference at the party headquarters along with former Finance Minister P. Chidamabaram, Gandhi said: “The Prime Minister and the BJP said that the Congress had done nothing in last 70 years. There is a list here of all the assets that the Congress has helped build using the public money.”
“Now the Prime Minister is in the process of selling the crown jewels of this country.”
Listing out the sectors which are going to be privatised, Gandhi said that these are being sold and one can guess to whom it is going. “And frankly, these will go to three to four people,” he said.
Announcing the measure on Monday, Sitharaman had said it is to unlock value in brownfield projects by engaging the private sector, transferring to them the rights but not the ownership in projects, and using the funds for infrastructure creation across the country.
But assailing the government, Gandhi said: “I want to tell the youths, your employment has been snatched, for farmers, three special farm laws have been made. And today I want to say what Prime Minister plans to give to his industrialist friends.”
This, he claimed, comprises 26,700 km of national highways worth Rs 1.6 lakh crore, Rs 1.5 lakh crore in railways with 400 railways stations, 150 private trains, railway tracks and warehouses.
He further said that 42,300 circuit km of transmission network, 6,000 MW power generation, solar wind assets from NHPC, NTPC and NLC, and 8,000 km of national gas pipeline of GAIL are all going to be privatised.
Even the 4,000 km of petroleum pipeline, 2.8 lakh km of telecom assets of Bharat Net Fibre Network, BSNL and MTNL towers, warehouses worth Rs 29,000 crore with a storage space of 210 lakh metric tonne, 107 coal mines, 761 mineral blocks, 25 airports worth Rs 21,000 crore, ports worth Rs 13,000 crore, along with 31 projects, and two national stadium worth Rs 11,000 crore are going to be gifted to a few industrialists, he said.
Reiterating that these are going to be given to “only three to four people”, Gandhi said: “This is your future. Your future is being sold to these three-four industrialists. It is reality.”
He, however, said that the Congress is not against privatisation.
“We had logic behind privatisation,” he said, adding that industries which were chronically loss-making and companies with minimal market share were privatised.
“And the sectors where there were risks of private sector monopoly, we decided not to sell. But this entire scheme is designed to create monopoly,” he alleged.
“All the sectors that I have named are there to bring monopoly. We say do privatisation but not at the cost of loss to the country,” he said, claiming that when these assets are privatised or sold to private players, then there will very few employment opportunities.
“I had warned about Covid and you all made fun of me. When this starts, your chances of getting employment will be less. The assets of India are being sold and it is an attack on your future,” he said, adding that the Prime Minister is not working for India but “for three or four people”.
The Congress leader also charged the government of mishandling the country’s economy.
“There is an excuse they have come up with that we are leasing these… The government clearly mishandled the economy and doesn’t know what to do,” he said.
Accusing the government of “basically destroying what the UPA built”, he said that now, as a last resort, they are selling everything that the UPA had helped create.
“To me, this is a huge tragedy,” he added.
Chidambaram said: “This is a grand closing down sale. Virtually there would not be any public sector undertakings (PSUs) left after the proposed ‘roads to railways’ monetisation plan of BJP government.”
He said that this exercise has been designed without any ex-ante criteria. “The government should have spelt out what its criteria and goals were. You don’t embark upon such a big exercise without first setting out the criteria and what your goals are,” he said.
“Raising funds cannot be (the) sole goal for selling assets built over 70 years. All stakeholders, including employees, workers’ unions, farmers must be consulted before embarking on such large sale of assets,” he added.