Wednesday, September 28, 2022

How Modi’s privatisation plan for PSUs differs from Vajpayee’s?

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New Delhi: Amidst all the din about privatisation of PSUs, one of the questions that is being raised by trade unions and employee associations across these companies is the same: why is the government refusing to meet us and hear us out? The three state-run companies that the government is set to put up for privatisation include, Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited (BPCL), Shipping Corporation of India (SCI) and Container Corporation (CONCOR).

In some ways, the Airports Authority of India (AAI) is also sailing in the same boat as the Centre hands out its airports to the private sector. Right from the time it started as a rumour till Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman formally confirmed the Cabinet nod for privatisation of PSUs on November 20, unions have rued that they have not had a single meeting with their business owners — the Centre or the ministers at their administrative ministries. And those who are facing the privatisation onslaught for a second time (like BPCL) say that this is a key difference between Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government and former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who scripted India’s first-ever widespread privatisation drive.

‘Privatisation of PSUs being done without consultation with us’

Debasis Majumder, Joint Secretary at Container Corporation of India Ltd Employee Union, said, “The main stakeholders of the company — employees — have not been taken into confidence. The management, on the other hand, is absolving itself of any responsibility, saying that they had no role in the decision taken by the government.” The BJP government is looking to offer 30 percent stake in CONCOR to a private player, along with management control. At SCI, Manoj Yadav, General Secretary of Forward Seamen’s Union of India (FSUI), voiced the same concerns when he said, “Not even one meeting has been organised by the management or the government. The management is colluding with the government to disregard the views of the very people who work for them.”

The refrain is the same at AAI

YP Gautam, General Secretary of an officers’ association of AAI, who has been at the forefront of employee-led protests against privatisation at AAI, said, “The government has been pursuing its privatisation plans without holding consultations with us. Despite repeated requests, we have not had a single meeting with the minister. If the government thinks that whatever it is doing, is in the interest of the nation and of AAI, they should at least speak to us and explain the same to us. Hold a dialogue at least. How does this make sense… handing out airports that have been managed by us to private players without even taking us into confidence?”

BPCL, the one who survived it the last time

At BPCL, union leaders said that for a long time until it was confirmed, the management was in denial of any such plan about the privatisation of the public sector company. Kishore Nair, from Bharat Petroleum Technical and Non-Technical Employees Association said, “I remember the last time when the government was considering privatisation of BPCL in 2003 under Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. The then Petroleum Minister Ram Naik had met the employees and had assured us that our concerns will be addressed. No such thing has happened this time around. We have written letters to the PMO, the petroleum ministry, but we have not received any response from anywhere.”

ALSO READ: Nov 28 protest against privatisation is no more about BPCL alone

‘BJP’s thumping mandate is allowing it to bypass democracy’

The mandate handed by the democracy to the BJP is now making way for it to bypass the same, said Aji MG, General Secretary of the Cochin Refineries Workers’ Association. “The government or our concerned ministers are not meeting us or holding consultations with our state government because there’s no need to do so. They have a comfortable majority everywhere.”

(PSU Watch– India's Business News centre that places the spotlight on PSUs, Bureaucracy, Defence and Public Policy is now on Telegram. Join PSU Watch Channel in your Telegram and stay updated)

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