The first recommendation was to set up a Disinvestment Fund. What was the object of this disinvestment? The object of disinvestment was not to bridge the fiscal deficit. The object of disinvestment was to create a Fund. That was in the Common Minimum Programme of the United Front Government. What they had stated was that the revenue generated from such disinvestment would be utilised in two vital areas of the country, namely, health and education particularly in the poor and backward areas of our country. A part of such revenue would be earmarked to create an Investment Fund which would be utilised to strengthen other public sector enterprises. The Government owes an explanation as to how much they have spent for health and education in the poor and backward areas and how much they have earmarked, out of Rs.18,282 crore which was the fund raised up to 30.11.1999, for the revival and revamping of sick public undertakings.
Yesterday only I raised the problems of fertilizer units of our country. From Gorakhpur to Ramagundam, all the units have been closed. The Gorakhpur unit has been closed. The FACT in Cochin has been closed. In Uttar Pradesh, the Gorakhpur unit is there. In Bihar and Barauni, there is no production in the units. In the Durgapur unit in West Bengal, there is no production. There are three units in Namrup in Assam. One is functioning. Two have been closed. The Talcher unit, which is a coal-based Fertilizer Plant in Orissa, has been closed. In Andhra Pradesh, the Ramagundam unit has been closed. My TDP friends will admit that it is also a coal-based Fertilizer Plant and it has also been closed...(Interruptions)
Now, I would like to know from the hon. Minister that out of Rs.18,282 crore, how much money they are planning to spend in order to revive these seven or eight Urea Units of our country which are vitally needed for agricultural production. What we are hearing from the Government is that our public sector undertakings are incurring losses. They never said how much the Government of India had received from the public sector undertakings towards excise duty, sales tax and dividend. They never say about the employment generated by these public sector undertakings. They never say about the social obligations which these public sector undertakings do undertake. Out of the 242 public sector undertakings, only 236 are operational now. There are 74 Ministers!...(Interruptions) How many private sector undertakings like the Enron and the British Gas Company undertake the social obligations like our public sector undertakings? Shri Ram Naik is eager to sell the GAIL to Enron because the Enron is in Maharashtra. They are selling the shares of the Gas Authority of India at throw away prices, whatever price they may get. The assets created by millions and millions of people of our country are being squandered away by the Government. I would like to put this question whether we should allow it or not; whether we should allow this Government to sell out, to squander the assets created by the toil of the millions and millions of workers of our country.
Can the Government say that during the super-cyclone period, how many of the Private Companies like the Enron and the British Gas Company came forward to adopt one village or one district like it was done by the Bharat Heavy Electrical Limited? Can we forget all these things? Of course, there are some chronically sick public sector undertakings. There are some public sector undertakings which are not public sector undertakings since their inception. There are some Units which were closed down or abandoned by the erstwhile owners. Those units were taken over by the Government of India and then subsequently they were nationalised. No investment was made. There are the undertakings like the National Textiles Corporation, the NJMC etc. They were all in the private sector.
They were taken over and these units were closed down; not a single paisa was spent on them. In the case of Bengal Potteries, I had met the Prime Minister at least 25 to 30 times, - I had gone to meet the Prime Minister alongwith Kumari Mamata Banerjee; we had gone together, because there is no difference of opinion between us when it comes to the interest of the labour force and the interest of any industry in West Bengal - but ultimately that prestigious company was wound up.
Without spending a single paisa, the Government has come to the conclusion now that this company cannot be revived. But there are some companies with potentiality which can be revived and one such company is the Rehabilitation Industries Corporation Limited. What was the object of setting up this company? The Rehabilitation Industries Corporation Limited was set up in 1959 by the Government of India in Calcutta with the primary objective of rehabilitating refugees from Bangladesh, Burma and Sri Lanka. Employment opportunities were sought to be created through the establishment of manufacturing facilities in low to average skill industries such as industrial estates, taxi cooperative societies etc. The purpose of setting up this company was to rehabilitate the refugees. But now the Government has decided to wind up this company and that its shares should be sold out. Who will buy its shares?
Sir, the hon. Minister of Petroleum and Natural Gas is sitting here. I would submit that private companies will be ready to buy the share of GAIL and IPCL. But what was the recommendation of the Disinvestment Commission with regard to the sale of the share of IPCL? I quote:
"However, care should be taken while pre-qualifying bidders to ensure that strategic sale does not lead to market dominance by a single player."
By the term "single player" what was in the mind of the Disinvestment Commission? They thought that the majority of the shares should not go to any particular company. Now, the Reliance Industries Limited wants to buy the shares of IPCL to have dominance in the field of petrochemical products of our country. The Disinvestment Commission has categorically recommended against it. But that has not been taken into consideration while selling out the shares of IPCL.
Sir, we were surprised when the Government took a decision to sell out the shares of nine jewels, which were called `Navaratnas'. There are some public sector undertakings which are called mini-Ratnas.
MR. CHAIRMAN : Shri Basu Deb Acharia, please conclude.
SHRI BASU DEB ACHARIA : Sir, I have just started.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Shri Acharia, only seven minutes have been allotted to your party by the Business Advisory Committee.
SHRI BASU DEB ACHARIA : Sir, this is a very important subject involving 242 public sector undertakings and an investment of Rs.1,92,222 crore in these units. So, you allow me... (Interruptions)
MR. CHAIRMAN : The Business Advisory Committee has allotted the time.
SHRI BASU DEB ACHARIA : This is for the sake of allotment. And for the Panel of Chairmen, there is no restriction. ... (Interruptions)
This is the main reason. The Government is facing serious economic crisis. The gross fiscal deficit is half done. The budgeted estimates in 1998-99 was around 22 per cent higher than the budgeted estimate. The tax and non-tax receipts have declined. The Government borrowings have been disproportionately high. Only in the month of April and June, Government has borrowed 40 per cent of the total yearly borrowings. The gross fiscal deficit for April, 1999 was Rs. 16,355 crore. In April, 1998, it was Rs. 12,355 crore. Thus, in order to bridge this fiscal deficit, they want to sell out even the blue-chip companies and the `Navratnas' at throwaway prices.
I would like to quote from an article written by Shri Pritish Nandy. He is neither a writer, nor a Member from the Opposition Benches but a Member from the Treasury Benches. Shri Geete will agree with me.
After the debate in the Rajya Sabha, Shri Nandy wrote an article and I quote:
"Last week in Parliament saw the Leftists arguing passionately against the GAIL disinvestment strategy followed by the BJP Government. So well argued was their case that I found myself, even as I sat in the treasury benches, in complete sympathy with them. For the shabby manner in which the disinvestment was done would put any self-respecting Government to shame."
He further said:
"The offloading of PSU stocks must be done within the strictest framework of public scrutiny. No Government has the mandate to sell off national institutions, some of them priceless value, built up by the dedication and efforts of millions of proud Indians (and the taxes you and I have paid, at absurdly high percentages of our income) for a song."
He has further said:
"No one should suspect that the family silver is being sold surreptitiously at the dead of night to whose who are offering us but a fraction of their actual price. In that case, even the alliance partners of the BJP will have no option but to join the chorus of Opposition and ask for a parliamentary probe."
This is in regard to selling of shares of Gas Authority of India. I have said that the Government owes an explanation not only to this House but to the country at large. Why was the price reduced?
When, in 1997, the Government -- whichever Government at that point of time was there -- did not agree to sell it out at Rs.125 per share, how can this Government sell out the shares of Gas Authority of India at a throw away price?
I demand that there should be a Parliamentary probe in the whole affairs of disinvestment of Gas Authority of India. Just after coming to power, how could they take such a decision against the interest of the nation? I oppose the entire disinvestment of public sector undertakings and I urge upon the Government that the PSUs, including the NTC...
He went in that Committee along with the Minister.
SHRI RAM NAIK: I was also with them. But I opposed that.
SHRI BASU DEB ACHARIA : Yes, he was also there accompanied by Shri Madhukar Sirpotdar. We went there along with Shri R.L. Jalappa.
So, I urge upon the Government to take urgent steps to revive the public sector undertakings which have the potentiality to be revived. In the interest of the workers and in the interest of the nation, the Government should stop this disinvestment policy, selling out the shares at throw away prices to the foreign and Indian companies. If the Government sells out shares at throw away prices, then how can India be built by Indians? This way India can be built by only Enrons and British Gas companies. Does the Government want that?
SHRI BASU DEB ACHARIA : I have not quoted Shri Malkani as to what he said in the other House. He totally opposed the Disinvestment Policy. So, I oppose the disinvestment and I oppose this selling out of shares of the public sector undertakings.
I demand that there should be delinking of disinvestment from the Budgetary process of the Government.
I suggest the fund which has been raised to the extent of Rs.18,222 crore be spent to revive the PSUs. Up to 30th November, 1999, out of Rs.43,000 crore which was the target this year, they could raise only Rs.14,000 crore. That is why, the Prime Minister thought it wise to create a separate Department for disinvestment.
SHRI SOMNATH CHATTERJEE : He is the liquidator.
SHRI BASU DEB ACHARIA : He is the official liquidator. Shri Jaitley, you are the official liquidator.
MR. CHAIRMAN : Please conclude. You have taken half-an-hour time.
SHRI BASU DEB ACHARYA :
I am concluding. I have not taken half-an-hour. I have taken only 10 minutes time. So, I again urge upon the Government...
SHRI SOMNATH CHATTERJEE : You do not urge. What is the use of urging? You demand.
SHRI BASU DEB ACHARIA : So, again I demand not to close down our Public Sector Undertakings, not to demolish the temples of modern India. You spend a sum of Rs.18,000 crore to revive all our sick Public Sector Undertakings. Thank you.
SHRI SOMNATH CHATTERJEE : Including NTC.
DR. B.B. RAMAIAH (ELURU): Hon. Chairman, Sir, the main discussion is disinvestment which is the most important item. The three aspects which we have to see are: whether we should continue with the disinvestment; if it is so, for what purpose we have to do it; and how do we utilize the fund.
Disinvestment was started in the year 1991-92. The object was very clear. It was to see that we should be able to strengthen the strategic industries and also we give proper consideration for their sickness. What we said in the second object is also very clear. As Shri Acharia has mentioned, the policy and the Common Minimum Programme of the United Front Government, while focussing on the economic growth with social justice, emphasized that the Public Sector would continue to be an important component of Indian industry. It stated that any decision on disinvestment should be taken and implemented in a transparent manner. That is the main object.
Revenues generated from disinvestment should be utilized in the vital areas of health and education, particularly, in the poor and backward districts of the country. This is the main object. So, our main object now is to see whether this has been utilized, whether this object is practised and implemented.
The second thing that we find is that in the earlier disinvestment, there were a number of lapses. So, we said we should start with the Disinvestment Commission. Of course, the tenure of Disinvestment Commission is over by 30th November. I am sure the Government will again re-consider and see that they should be able to strengthen the Disinvestment Commission.
Many hon. Members have mentioned so many issues. So many issues have come up. I do not want to go into those facts about IPCL, GAIL and various other organizations, how they have performed and what has happened to them.
But we should strengthen these organizations. We should have proper people who can be able to really do justice in the country's interest. We should see that the workers' interest is protected carefully. This is the main object on which you have to say something.
Some time ago, we started nationalizing our industries but later on we found there were some problems in nationalization. We also changed our policy due to circumstances and conditions of international and national policies of the Government. I know our hon. Member, Shri Somnath Chatterjee very well. In West Bengal, they want to invest in more industries and they want to have more participation. They want more collaboration to come. We are doing this in the interest of the country, workers and development. Everybody who is interested in the country's development would do that. In the process, sometimes, we may misuse; we may go in a wrong direction. So, we should always see that we go in the right direction. In other countries also there is sickness either in the private sector or in the public sector, they are showing a lot of interest. So many countries are interested in it. But what is required is, how to strengthen this, how to utilize the resources of these organizations. That is why, the financial institutions or the banks or the Government should always see that the lapses are set right, either in collaboration or through mergers or amalgamation or in whatever possible way.
There are weaknesses which may be due to quality of the product or due to the technological evolutions or due to marketing strategy or some other things. We should not hesitate to see that that is put into operation rather than keeping them idle so that they make losses. (Interruptions).
Sir, as our hon. Members have said, I would like to see that they should be properly attended to without any hesitation and without any reservation. We want to see that the assets of these units must be utilised in the interests of the country and the people. That is the main object which we have to see.
Sir, some of the hon. Members have said that there are 242 units in the public sector, out of which 162 units are in the manufacturing sector and 74 units are in the services sector. But out of these units what we find is that 129 units are doing well and 104 units are losing heavily. So, this is the responsibility of the Government to see how they can be run effectively.
I have visited a number of units at different places. What has happened in the case of Indian Telephone Industry? As long as they were selling to the Government, they made a profit of Rs. 200 crore. The moment it was decided that they have to compete with the other units, they lost Rs. 95 crore. That means they have big assets.
SHRI SOMNATH CHATTERJEE : Now, they are making profits.
DR. B.B. RAMAIAH : I will tell you what had happened. I will give you all the details. Then, I told them how to do it. They have a lot of assets and manpower. I said that they require collaboration and technology in order to see that the manpower and resources can be utilised in the best interests. So, they changed the strategy. The same thing happened in the Bharat Electronics Limited. They were making only black and white TVs. I said that they should change the technology and should have a different collaboration methods. So, the policy of the Government should be able to save the industrial development of the country and utilise the resources usefully.