SAY NO TO PRIVATISATION
SAVE THE COUNTRY AND OUR PEOPLE
FROM DESTRUCTION AND SLAVERY
The BJP led government is determined to dismantle the entire public sector network in the country. All these PSUs are the repositories of huge national asset including land and minerals, vital infrastructure, important mineral resources and huge productive forces. In fact, the aggressive exercise by the BJP Govt to privatise PSUs tantamount to put forth the entire national economy on sale.
Soon after assuming power at the centre, the government under Prime Minister Modi wound up the Planning Commission and replaced it with the National Institution for Transforming India (NITI) Ayog. NITI AAyog was entrusted with the task of identifying central public sector undertakings (CPSUs) that are to be disinvested and sold off. It has already identified 74 (CPSUs) – including 26 for downright closure and 10 for strategic disinvestment. While disinvestment means that the government would retain management, strategic sale means that majority shares will be sold and management would be handed over to the private party. It is nothing but outright privatisation. In a reply to a question, Arjun Ram Meghwal, the minister of state for finance informed the Parliament in December last year, that the government has given ‘in principle’ approval to the recommendations of NITI Ayog. Many more CPSUs are in the pipeline of being identified by NITI AAYOG for privatisation.
In his budget speech for 2017-18, Arun Jaitley, the union finance minister, announced that the government intends to raise Rs 72500 crore through disinvestment of public sector undertakings in this financial year. Out of this, Rs 46500 crore is sought to be raised through disinvestment, Rs 15000 crores through strategic sale and Rs 11000 crores through disinvestment of the general insurance companies. Significantly, the Modi led BJP government has appointed Reliance Mutual Fund Managers to provide consultancy and execute its project of quick selling 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).
Units in defence production like the Bharat Earth Movers Limited (BEML) one of the nine defence public sector units engaged in defence production and steel - the Salem, Durgapur and Bhadravati plants of Steel Authority of India Limited (SAIL) are among those identified for strategic sale. 25% shares in all the five public sector general insurance companies will be sold to private companies, both Indian and foreign. The Defence Ministry has also ordered to immediately list other Defence PSUs viz., BDL and MIDHANI in the stock market to facilitate disinvestment of at least 25% shares. Bridge & Roof Company Ltd, a premier Miniratna PSU in strategic heavy engineering cum construction sector are being processed for outright privatisation. Pawn Hans Helicopter Ltd, which is joint venture company under the Civil Aviation ministry with 49% share holding shareholding by ONGC has been decided for strategic sale despite objection by the Civil Aviation Ministry. The Indian Drugs and Pharmaceuticals Limited (IDPL) and Rajasthan Drugs and Pharmaceuticals Limited (RDPL) would be closed. Hindustan Antibiotics Limited (HAL) and Bengal Chemical and Pharmaceuticals Limited (BCPL) will be privatised, if buyers are available; otherwise they will also be closed down.
Almost all the profit-making public sector companies, mostly in strategic and core sector of the economy are targeted for privatisation through strategic sale route and a majority of them has already named by NITI AAYOG, with tacit approval by the PMO and Cabinet. On the other hand number of sick and loss-making PSUs with huge asset base is being decided for sale at distressed price or complete closure in the face of non-availability of buyers. And to facilitate and speed up such killing process, the Govt has recently decided to dissolve the Bureau of Industrial and Financial Rehabilitation (BIFR) and its appellate body AAIFR. It must be noted that many of those sick and loss making units are potentially viable units and most of them have been made to turn sick owing to policy hostility of the successive Govts leading to neglect of timely modernisation and updating of production facilities. They can definitely be brought back to efficiency and profitability with appropriate dose of capital investment for modernisation and the huge asset-base most of those sick PSUs are having are more than enough to fund for such cost of capital investment. Even then, the Govt of the day is hell bent to close them down or privatise mocking at their own slogan of “Make in India”.
On the other hand, in order to weaken the well functioning public sector units and thereby find a plea for or pave the way for their privatisation, the BJP Govt has chosen satanic route to strip them of their surpluses meant for continuous updating and modernising of production facilities. Many PSUs are compelled to pay huge dividends to Govt much above the statutory level by the concerned ministries some times to the tune of 50% or above in some cases; many PSUs are compelled to buy back their own shares at Govt disposal transferring a huge amount to Govt exchequer. These surpluses were generated internally by the PSUs through higher efficiency and productivity, while competing with private sector not only in the domestic market but also internationally. These surpluses were of crucial weapons in the hands of the PSUs to continuously update themselves technologically besides tackling the ups and downs in a volatile market, both domestically and globally. Stripping the profitable PSUs of their reserve and surpluses is a well articulated design to weaken the PSUs under target financially or otherwise to create ground for their sale cheaper to their favoured buyers in private sector, both domestic and foreign. Can there be a more heinous conspiracy against the national economy than this, articulated by a Govt always swearing in the name of “nationalism” on every damn thing under the sky? Such moves are totally anti-national and perpetrators of such conspiracy are enemies to nation.
The public sector workers are up in arms against these measures to eliminate the central public sector altogether. Representatives of CPSU unions from all over the country participated in a massive joint national convention in Bengaluru on 29th January 2017. Major central trade unions and the Joint Action Forum of Bengaluru and the CPSU Trade Union Coordination Committee of Hyderabad attended the national convention which unanimously adopted a ‘Declaration’. This ‘Declaration’ called for a series of united actions, campaign, propaganda and agitation, to be launched all over the country against any kind of disinvestment and demanding effective measures to revive sick PSUs under the ownership of the public sector. It also called upon the CPSU workers to get ready for a nationwide strike, the date of which would be declared later.
This struggle to save the public sector cannot be the struggle of the PSU workers alone. It is the responsibility of the entire working class, of all patriotic citizens of the country to join this struggle to protect the public sector from the vicious attempts of the government to hand it over to the big corporates, domestic and foreign. Why? Because, the public sector, despite all the shortcomings and limitations, has played and is playing a glorious role in the economy of our country and the development of our nation. Decimation of the public sector will not only impact the PSU workers, but harm the entire nation and its people.
Public sector in our country has been an instrument for attaining self reliant economy and played an important role in developing balanced regional growth. It was instrumental in creating the industrial base of the country after independence. It was the public sector enterprises which built the major infrastructure of the country like power, transport including railways, roads etc when the private sector did not have the capacity or was not ready to take the risk of investing huge amounts of capital in these sectors, which do not provide immediate profits. Thermal, hydro and nuclear power projects, transport and communication, production of steel, defence equipment, ship building, oil, coal etc were set up in the public sector. The Research and Development taken up by the PSUs had a huge contribution in our technological and industrial advance.
Public sector has also played an important role in the development of our agriculture by producing agricultural inputs like fertilisers, agricultural implements, pesticides, etc. The public sector research institutes immensely helped the farmers by providing new techniques to improve agricultural productivity in our country.
The general and life insurance companies and the banks which were nationalised to protect the interests as well as savings of the people from the loot of private establishments and harness them for national developmental goal and serve the common people and the poor including in the remote rural areas, which do not interest the private sector. The LIC has been contributing for infrastructure development, drinking water projects etc. The role of our public sector financial institutions in protecting our economy during the 2008 global financial meltdown is now well acknowledged.
The coal mines, Oil Companies and Insurance companies were nationalised in view of their crucial importance in national economic development and some industries in textile sector, engineering etc were also taken-over to protect the interest of the workers.
Public sector workers were comparatively better placed than the workers in the private sector in asserting their rights to organise and collective bargaining. Through their organised strength and struggles they were able to attain better working and living conditions. The public sector had a path breaking and basic contribution in establishing the right to organise and collective bargaining of the workers, which is sought to be denied in the private sector. Hence the assertion of public sector workers’ movement is always having wider implications and bearing on the workers in the other sectors in their struggle for trade union rights and other benefits.
Moreover, post liberalisation, the employment profile in the country as a whole has undergone a sea change with the mass scale contractorisation and temporarisation of regular work both in public and private sector. In public sector industries today the share of contract workers in total employment is not less than 50 per cent on the average, whereas in private sector share of contract workers is more than 70 per cent creating an obscene phenomenon of inequality and dichotomy in the workplaces. In such a situation organising the contract workers in the struggle for justice has become crucial task before the working class movement to effectively fight back dubious disruptive and divisive ploy of the exploiter class. And fact remains that it is in the public sector workplaces first, the pioneering initiative of organising the contract workers has been taken which has made visible advance in many PSUs creating an enabling situation in other workplaces as well.
The townships constructed in the areas where the PSUs were located, many in remote undeveloped rural areas, not only provided housing and other facilities for the workers like schools, hospitals, dispensaries, community centres, shopping complexes etc but also led to overall development of the entire area. Thousands of the people in the surrounding villages benefited indirectly by getting employment and income opportunities through providing different services to the people in these townships. By implementing the reservations for SC/ ST sections, PSUs provided employment and opportunities for their development.
In essence, existence and expansion of public sector has not only helped in a big way in the industrialisation of the national economy, it has also contributed to economic growth in other areas including growth of private sector and also despite various limitations contributed to social justice and definitely helped to bring the issue of social justice to the fore. At the same time public sector also economy also contributed to spread in trade union rights not only among public sector workers but also among other sectors as well. And that is why desperate effort of the present BJP Govt to demolish public sector is also faultlessly accompanied with equally desperate and philistine move to demolish all rights of the workers by drastic change in labour laws designed to impose slavery on working people as a whole, public and private sector alike.
It has become fashionable for the advocates of neoliberal reforms to portray public sector as ‘white elephants’ eating away the scarce government resources. And such fashion reflects same dubious bent of mind of those in governance to impose slavery on the entire society itself.
But the reality is otherwise. It is big private corporate, both domestic and foreign who are looting the people, the economy and also the national exchequer and the Govt has been shamelessly conniving with such loots. There are innumerable instances of tax evasion, manipulation of accounts etc by the private sector establishments including the big corporates, national and multinational, robbing the national exchequer at not less than Rupees 5 lakh crore every year (Rs 6.59 lakh crore in direct tax in 2015-16). Public sector not only scrupulously pays its taxes but also makes huge contribution to the public exchequer through dividends etc besides keeping the national economy afloat with regular capital investments to the tune of not less than Rs 1.5 lakh crore every year. Since at least last one and half decade, every year, the central public sector units altogether, despite number of them being loss making units have been consistently making contribution to national exchequer in the form of tax (both direct and indirect) and dividends, special dividends etc at not not less than one lakh crore rupees on the average. In 2014-15 the PSUs contributed more than Rs 2 lakh crore to the public exchequer.
It is also fashionable for the NITI AAYOG brand of economists to preach that policy of privatisation will release resources for promoting augmenting employment generating investment by private sector including FDI. Nothing can be further from truth and this also known by the NITI AAYOG bandwagon and their mentors in union cabinet. Official data substantiates the fact. During last one decade at least, despite all concessions to the tune of Rs 10 lakh crore every year on the average to private corporate both in the form of revenue foregone and patronised tax default, besides patronised loan-default from banks, the private sector contribution to domestic employment generating investment has been consistently declining whereas Foreign capital inflow remained mainly limited acquisition and merger, no way contributing to employment generation; on the other hand investments by PSUs is keeping the national economy afloat, who are also faithful tax-payers. Privatisation exercise is aimed at benefitting those pilferers’ community in the private corporate sector, both domestic and foreign.
It is also necessary to recall that the BJP government, which evokes ‘nationalism’ on every occasion, has decided to allow 100 % Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in such strategic sectors like defence, railways, telecom, civil aviation, satellites power, petroleum, mining, coal etc. This will not only adversely impact the functioning of the PSUs in the concerned sectors but also compromise our national interests including security.
The public sector was conceived to achieve ‘commanding heights’ of our economy. However, various factors including lack of autonomous and efficient management, political interference etc, created difficulties for the public sector. The official advent of neoliberal policies under the Congress government in 1991, attempts to dismantle public sector became part of the government agenda. The concepts of self reliant economy, economic sovereignty, balanced regional development, social justice etc were sought to be given a go by. The former BJP government led by Atal Behari Vajpayee introduced the concept of strategic sale of public sector and privatised premier public sector units like Modern Food, Hindustan Zinc, BALCO, Indian Petrochemicals Corporations (IPCL), VSNL, Paradip Phosphates, CMC, HTL, Jessop, Centaur Hotel etc at a throw away price, at much below their real value, virtually on a single bidder situation on which CAG made seriously critical observations. It created a disinvestment department which was later converted into a disinvestment ministry. The UPA-I government’s attempts to disinvest could be thwarted to some extent by the left parties, on whose support the existence of that government depended. After the Modi government assumed power at the centre with BJP having majority of its own, the ‘neoliberal reforms’ have been fast tracked. The concept of planned development has been abandoned. Planning Commission disbanded. One of the major tasks assigned to NITI Ayog that replaced it is dismantling of the public sector.
And dismantling of the public sector is inseparably integrated with the strategy of country’s ruling polity to subjugate national economic interest, its economic independence and sovereignty to the interest of the international finance capital with the imperialist power in its driving seat. It is also aimed at extracting people more ferociously in favour of big corporates, foreign and domestic ; it is also aimed at imposing slavery on workers to start with the ultimate aim of crushing the democratic structures and social institutions as a whole and finally privatising the governance as whole at the behest of international exploiting class with Indian exploiters as junior partner.
The PSUs are our national wealth-generating assets; they are not only country’s bulwark for self-reliant advancement symbolising national sovereignty, they are also the bulwark for defence of democracy, social justice and its advancement. Any attack on public sector network is synonymous to heinous conspiracy and grievous onslaught of country’s self reliance, progress and democracy. It is the responsibility of the entire working class and the people of the country to protect public sector, resist all onslaughts on PSUs by all means and ensure that the basic objectives of self reliance, balanced development and social justice are achieved. Saving our public sector is the patriotic duty of the working class.
Expose the enemies to the nation!
No to Privatisation!
Design of Slavery will not pass!