Conspiracy to Eliminate PSUs Through Disinvestment: Congress

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Congress spokesperson Pawan Khera. — File photo

BJP Government was avoiding discussion on the economic downturn by deflecting public attention to trivial and emotional issues, says Congress

Abdul Bari Masoud | Caravan Daily

NEW DELHI – The Congress on Wednesday accused the Narendra Modi Government at the Centre of selling profit-making Public Sector Undertakings (PSUs) units to hide its inability to overcome the deepening economic crisis. Terming the “strategic disinvestment” as a conspiracy, the main Opposition in Parliament said it smelt a scam in the government’s deals.

Continuing its sharp attack on the government over the economic downturn, party Spokesperson Pawan Khera said the BJP Government was avoiding discussion on the matter by deflecting public attention to trivial and emotional issues.

“The government is focusing more on avoiding discussions on economic slowdown rather than addressing it. Now, there is talk of strategic disinvestment in the garb of which a conspiracy is being hatched to rob the profit-making companies in the public sector,” he said.

Addressing a press conference at the party headquarters here, the Congress spokesman said the Prime Minister Narendra Modi was trying his best to ensure that there are no discussions on the economic slump, the issues related to it such as growing acute financial crisis, growing unemployment, galloping inflation, farm distress etc.

He pointed out that investment in the private sector was at a record 16-year low and whatever was left of the health of the economy is because of the PSUs. But now they too are under threat from this very government.

He warned that the Navratna and the Maharatna PSUs have not reached this stage of success in a fortnight, nor in five-ten years, but they were developed through decades of hard work by all the governments preceding the Modi regime, Khera said.

Citing the example of BPCL, he pointed out that it was a profit-making company with four refineries, 14,800 petrol pumps, 123 petrol depots, 52 LPG plants, 5,607 LPG distributors, 56 aviation service centres. But the government wants to sell it off for mere Rs. 68,000 crore. Compare it to ESSAR which had one refinery and one port and 3,000 petrol pumps, but you sold it at much higher price of Rs. 78,000 crore to Rotellas.

“Why this step-motherly treatment towards your own Maharatna Company,” he asked, adding that this is the one company which has registered 16 percent growth in its profits in March 2019.

Listing other profit-making companies which have been the backbone of Indian economy for several decades, the Congress leader said the Modi Government repealed some Acts of Parliament in a very surreptitious manner to bring the BPCL and other such PSUs out from the scrutiny of Parliament to sell them.

He also listed reasons for downslide in the economy saying we are paying the price of demonetization which was the fatal blow on the economy as 2 per cent f the GDP will be cut because of this.  

On the goods and services tax (GST), he said the way the new tax regime was implemented dealt a crippling blow to the economy. And as for the announcement of exemption corporate tax, he said it would cost our economy a very heavy price of Rs. 1,45,000 crore.

Why the government wants to privatise and dismantle the public sector in the first place? Citing the example of the Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited. (BHEL) in which the number of employees has come down from 22,000 to 6,500, he said, “The BJP wants to encourage private companies by shutting down the PSUs.”

“The strategy is simple – first weaken your PSU, let them become loss-making from profit-making enterprise, and then just say sorry, we can’t run anymore. It is a loss-making company. Your game plan is clear, everybody can see through it,” he narrated.

Taking a dig at the Modi Government, he said, “The UPA government had Manmohan Singh to frame economic policies, but for the present government, Mohan Bhagwat, ’the great economist of the world’, who did not see any slowdown in the economy, is articulating their economic policies.

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