Former Congress president Rahul Gandhi Tuesday lashed out at the central government over the National Monetisation Pipeline (NMP) plan, alleging that the BJP -led government is selling all assets created in the last 70 years to the Prime Minister’s “industrialist friends”.
“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,” Gandhi said while addressing a press conference along with senior Congress leader P Chidambaram.
The Congress leader alleged that the BJP government’s privatisation plan is aimed at creating monopolies in key sectors and that it will kill jobs.
On Monday, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had unveiled the NMP, worth Rs 6 lakh crore, that included unlocking value by involving private companies across infrastructure sectors — from passenger trains and railway stations to airports, roads, and stadiums.
Reading out a list of assets being “gifted away”, Gandhi said, “Roads are being sold for Rs 1.6 lakh crores – 26,700 kilometres of National Highways; Railways for Rs 1.5 lakh crores – 400 stations, 150 trains, Railway tracks and woodsheds; Power transmission – 42,300 circuit kilometres of transmission network; Power generation for Rs 40,000 crores – 6,000 MW of Hydro, Solar or Wind Assets; Natural Gas Pipeline for Rs 25,000 crores – 8000 kilometres of GAIL pipeline; Petrol pipeline for Rs 22,000 crores – 4,000 kilometres of Indian Oil and HPCL pipelines; Telecom for Rs 35,000 crores – 2.86 lakh kilometres of BharatNet Fibres Optics; Warehousing for Rs 29,000 crores; Mining for Rs 32,000 crore – 160 coal mines; Airports for Rs 21,000 crores – 25 airports; Ports for Rs 13,000 crores – 31 projects; 9 ports; and Stadiums for Rs 11,000 crores – 2 national stadia.”
While acknowledging that the Congress too had a privatisation policy during it’s rule, Gandhi said his party “was not against privatisation” but “believes that there should be a strategy for privatisation.”
Further, taking potshots at the Centre’s move, Congress leader P Chidambaram said, “The only thing that I could glean from the Finance Minister’s press conference is and from the reports in your media, is we are going to raise money! Can that be a goal by itself? We are going to raise 1.5 lakh crore a year for 4 years. Can that be sole goal to virtually sell assets built over 70 years?”
The Congress has described the government’s infrastructure monetisation plan as “legalised loot and organised plunder”, alleging that invaluable public assets created over decades are being handed over to a chosen few. It further alleged that the government is giving away assets worth crores made from the hard work of the people to its billionaire “friends”.
Hitting out at the Centre, Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra had earlier alleged that the government is giving the “jumla of Aatmanirbhar (rhetoric of self-reliance)” but has made the country dependent on its “billionaire friends”.
“While giving the ‘jumla’ of ‘Aatmanirbhar’, they have made the entire government dependent on ‘billionaire friends’. All the work for those billionaire friends and all the wealth also for them,” she said in a tweet in Hindi.
Meanwhile, BJP leader Smriti Irani hit back at the Congress saying that the Opposition party’s allegations have exposed its “political hypocrisy” as it had monetised the Mumbai-Pune Expressway and airports.
The four-year National Monetisation Pipeline has been announced to provide a clear framework for monetisation and give potential investors a ready list of assets to generate investment interest. The government has stressed that these are brownfield assets, which have been “de-risked” from execution risks and therefore should encourage private investment. Structuring the monetisation transactions providing a balance risk profile of assets and an effective execution of the NMP will be a key challenge.
Roads, railways and power sector assets will comprise over 66 per cent of the total estimated value of the assets to be monetised, with the balance coming from sectors including telecom, mining, aviation, ports, natural gas and petroleum product pipelines, warehouses and stadiums.
As many as 25 Airports Authority of India (AAI) airports, including the ones at Chennai, Bhopal, Varanasi and Vadodara, as well as 40 railway stations, 15 railway stadiums and an unidentified number of railway colonies have been identified for getting private investments.
Stating that there is no transfer of ownership or land, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had said, “The NMP talks about brownfield infra assets where investments have already been made, where there is a completed asset which is either languishing or which is remaining not fully monetised or which is remaining underutilised.”
She added that monetisation will create further value for infrastructure creation in the country and explore innovative ways of private participation without transfer of government ownership.
The government had announced plans for NMP in this year’s Budget and earlier in August.
Meanwhile, the CPI(M) on Tuesday alleged that the Centre with its decision to monetise its assets across key sectors has “officially” announced the “sale of India”.
“The central government has officially announced the sale of India. The National Monetisation Pipeline released by the finance minister yesterday details the loot of our national assets and infrastructure. This is an outright plunder of people’s wealth?” the CPI(M) said.
The Left party also alleged that this was like “selling family silver” to meet daily expenditure of the country which “makes neither economic nor common sense”.
“Selling assets for a song when the markets are low benefits only crony corporates and promotes crony capitalism. The politburo of the CPI(M) calls upon the people of India to protest against and resist this loot of our national assets,” it said.