Sonia Gandhi’s fearmongering by opposing corporatisation of railways production units by terming it as privatisation on the floor of the House seems to be stemming from their own legacy of scams during the UPA era.
Remember Coalgate and 2G spectrum scam and the then Union Minister Kapil Sibal’s infamous ‘zero loss theory’ on 2G spectrum allocation? The coal allocation scam cost the exchequer an approximate amount of Rs 1.08 lakh crore, while the 2G ‘zero loss’ spectrum scam was pegged at Rs 1.76 lakh crore. On 24 September 2014, the Supreme Court of India decided to cancel 214 out of 218 coal blocks allocated since 1993. The Supreme Court in 2012 declared the allotment of the spectrum “unconstitutional and arbitrary”.
Sonia Gandhi’s fears that only ‘few industrialists’ will benefit for the corporatisation appears to be based on the above two scams considering it was her own government which pushed for disinvestment and privatisation.
To refresh her memory, former Union Finance Minister P. Chidambaram, who is currently being probed for his alleged involvement in bribery and money laundering during his 2004-05 budget speech had said, “Disinvestment and privatization are useful economic tools. We will selectively employ these tools, consistent with the declared policy. As a first step, I propose to establish a Board for Reconstruction of Public Sector Enterprises (BRPSE). The Board will advise the Government on the measures to be taken to restructure PSEs, including cases where disinvestment or closure or sale is justified.”
Sonia Gandhi’s concerns that the corporatisation will lead to loss of employment didn’t come in the way during the UPA tenure it seems.
Also, although it is true that the railway ministry has proposed corporatisation of some railway units, it is absolutely misleading to say that it is done with the objective of privatisation.
In the 100-day plan prepared by the ministry after the formation of the new government, a proposal to set up a new government-owned public sector unit named Indian Railway Rolling Stock Company Ltd (IRRSCL) has been included. The ministry aims to hive off its locomotive and rolling stock production units and their associated workshops into this new entity.
The aim of this is to bring in increased efficiency in production in the units. The IRRSCL is proposed to drive the technology partnership and modernisation initiatives of the seven production units under the Ministry of Railways. Each production unit under a CEO will operate as an individual profit centre.
The ministry is planning to only corporatize its production units in a separate entity, and it does not mean privatisation. Therefore, Sonia Gandhi was presenting distorted facts in Parliament by saying that the government is planning to privatise the production units. Even after corporatisation, the production facilities will remain a government entity named IRRSCL, and they will not be handed over to some industrialist like she is alleging.