Former Congress president Rahul Gandhi has lambasted the BJP-led government for selling India’s assets – its crown jewels – established over the last 70 years to the Prime Minister’s “industrialist friends”.
Rahul made this accusation while addressing a press conference on Tuesday (August 24) along with senior Congress leader, P Chidambaran, after the government’s launch of the National Monetisation Pipeline (NMP).
“The Narendra Modi-led government is in the process of selling India’s crown jewels built by previous governments with public money over 70 years”, accused Rahul.
The NMP, unveiled by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Monday, is expected to unlock value worth ₹6 lakh crore by monetising brownfield projects through private sector participation. The government will raise the funds by leasing and buying back, not selling, thousands of kilometres of roads, transmission lines, pipelines, fibre networks, towers, also power projects, railway stations, ports and airports.
“The ownership of the assets remain with the government (and) there should be mandatory handback,” pointed out the Finance Minister, said media reports.
The Congress, however, has chosen to describe the government’s infrastructure monetisation plan as “legalised loot and organised plunder”.
They alleged that “invaluable” public assets that have been built over a long time are being literally handed over to a “chosen few”, said an Indian Express report. These assets have been created from the hard work of the people and they were being given away to the government’s billionaire “friends”.
Gandhi pointedly said that the Narendra Modi-led government wanted to benefit its few industrialist friends through the NMP. Also, PM Modi has snatched away employment from the youth and deprived farmers of their powers by introducing the three laws farm laws.
Sithraman has reiterated that the four-year NMP, which gives a roadmap for the leasing of state-owned infrastructure assets, will not involve transfer of ownership or land.
The government is only offering brownfield infra assets where investments have already been made. According to Sitharaman, the investments will be in “a completed asset which is either languishing or which is remaining not fully monetised or which is remaining underutilised.”
The IE report pointed out that structuring the monetisation transactions to provide a balance risk profile of assets and the execution of NMP will be the major challenges.
The government expects the major chunk of 66 per cent of the total estimated value of the assets to be monetised to come from roads, railways and power sector assets. While the balance 34 per cent will be acquired from sectors such as telecom, mining, aviation, ports, natural gas and petroleum product pipelines, warehouses and stadiums.
Airports in Chennai, Bhopal, Varanasi and Vadodara will be among the 25 Airports Authority of India (AAI) properties, 40 railway stations, 15 railway stadiums and an unidentified number of railway colonies have all been earmarked for garnering private investments.
The NMP is in line with PM Modi’s strategic divestment policy, under which the government will retain presence in only a few identified areas with the rest tapping the private sector.