Sell Air India? Sell the country; Unions warn of strike
Opposing National Institution for Transforming India (NITI) Aayog's proposal to privatise Air India and shut 28 PSUs, central trade unions, including the RSS-backed BMS, have threatened to go on strike and sought Prime Minister's intervention on this matter.
One of the bodies has even accused the government of "moving on expected lines to sell the country".
"BMS opposes NITI Aayog proposal to close sick PSUs... BMS demands that the government call a meeting of all stakeholders to discuss the revival plan of sick PSUs before proceeding to decide on the proposal of NITI Aayog. Otherwise, we will compel to come on to the street to oppose the move," BMS General Secretary Virjesh Upadhyay said in a statement today.
The statement follows NITI Aayog submitting its proposal to the Prime Minister's Office on strategic sale, privatisation of PSUs and closure of loss-making units.
The NITI panel, headed by its Vice-Chairman Arvind Panagariya with CEO Amitabh Kant and other members on board, has prepared a detailed blueprint on PSU reforms. The Aayog has already submitted two lists of PSUs for strategic sale and closure or sale of sick units.
Although the panels' recommendation has not been made public, some media reports suggest that it has pitched for reducing the government's stake to 49 % or below in PSUs at one go under the strategic sale option.
"The AITUC Secretariat has taken serious note and condemned the proposal for strategic sale of Air India, Chennai Petroleum, Madras Fertilizer and FACT by NITI Aayog," All India Trade Union Congress Secretary D L Sachdev said in a statement.
"AITUC has also condemned Aayog's proposal to wind up 28 PSUs and long-term lease of ITDC hotels. AITUC appeals to the Prime Minister not to accept the proposals as submitted by NITI Aayog on strategic sale and winding up the so-called loss making PSUs and stresses on revival of these units."
Centre of Indian Trade Unions General Secretary Tapen Sen was more blunt: "We are opposed to it. The government is moving on expected lines to sell the country".
Sen said further, "What is surprising is that now the government wants to sell those PSUs on which crores were spent for revival. This will definitely be one of major issues at the nation-wide Bharat Bandh on September 2, 2016."
Indian National Trade Union Congress Vice-President Ashok Singh echoed his point, saying the union is against the proposal to sell sick PSUs and will oppose this.
The government has set a disinvestment target of Rs 56,500 crore for this fiscal. Of this, Rs 36,000 crore is to come from minority stake sale in PSUs and Rs 20,500 crore from strategic sale.
The government kickstarted the disinvestment programme for the current fiscal with 11.36 % stake sale in NHPC. The government raised Rs 2,700 crore through the process.
During 2015-16, the government managed to notch up Rs 25,312 crore through disinvestment, less than half the target of Rs 69,500 crore.
It had raised around Rs 24,500 crore in 2014-15 by selling stake in public companies, about Rs 16,000 crore in 2013-14 and Rs 23,960 crore in 2012-13. It had raised around Rs 14,000 crore in 2011-12 and over Rs 22,100 crore in 2010-11.