development of new technologies. These funds should be utilised to help them in the fields where they are lacking. I am sure that the hon. Minister will take these factors into consideration while utilsing the funds.
We should look into another important aspect and that is the fiscal deficit. We are paying an interest of Rs. 88,000 crore. We should not blame one another. The country has been ruled by different parties at different points of time. There might have been different interests at that time. But we should see the present position. What had happened in the case of Asian giants. They are also facing problems today. So, we have to watch these things and we have to take a correct path by keeping in view the developments all over the world.
Our Defence expenditure is also going up. It is about Rs. 46,000 crore and it may even go up further. We never expected this to go up so much. Now, so much of funds are required to give relief to people in the case of natural calamities like droughts, floods, earthquakes, cyclone, etc. So, sometimes what we are providing in the Budget is not sufficient due to such calamities. But we need resources and unless we adopt some other strengthening methods, our fiscal deficit will go on increasing and inflation also will go up. We have to see how to control this.
Sir, there are huge public sector undertakings like Indian Oil Corporation, Gas Authority of India Limited, Hindustan Machine Tools, Vizag Steel, etc. and restructuring of these units are very much required. Vizag Steel produces excellent quality products. They have good markets. But the Government should do restructuring of the finances of these units. The interest is a big liability for them. So, the part of the interest should be converted into equity. If this is done, they would be able to restructure the whole unit.
There is a tremendous potential in units like the Vizag Shipyard, etc. But what is required is the development of modern technology.
Now, disinvestment also has gone to different stages. Though it was started in 1991-92 with Rs. 3,038 crore, it has come to Rs. 1,913 crore in 1993-94. Later on, it has again picked up and it came to Rs. 4,800 crore in 1994-95.
Then again it became Rs.362 crore. In 1998-99, it was Rs.5,371 crore and this year again it has come down to Rs.1,478 crore. We need at least Rs.16,000 crore. That provision is there in the Budget. But what are the important things? The first thing is that we have to strengthen the market conditions. The second one is the market strategies. Another thing is that when we decide that we are going to disinvest in so much quantity, the market may depress. So, before we take any decision, we have to be careful about the market and the other things that are required, that is, how much you want to sell, to what extent you sell, and so on. The moment you say that you want to sell a huge quantity, the market again goes down. For deciding the strategy of these things, we need experts who are able to do the job, but still we need disinvestment. When to do this and how to do this is more important. So, across the party lines, we have to give our suggestions, our cooperation, our collaboration in the interest of the country, in the interest of development, in the interest of workers. I do not want to say that this is not the policy that we do it, but this is required for corrections. Huge corrections are very important and I look forward to everyone of you to be able to participate.
SHRI SOMNATH CHATTERJEE : I am sure, they have not even consulted you. They do not believe in consultation.
DR. B.B. RAMAIAH : Whatever it is, some of these things are required and, I am sure, they would be able to strengthen this...(Interruptions)
DR. B.B. RAMAIAH : Well, I think no matter whatever it is. I said, this has to be done in the interest of the country, in the interest of the people, in the interest of the workers. No matter whoever does it, the country is more important, the object is more important, not the basis on which probably some of these things have happened....(Interruptions)
MR. CHAIRMAN : Now please conclude. You have taken five minutes extra. You were allotted only six minutes but you have taken five minutes more.
DR. B.B. RAMAIAH : Sir, the purpose of today's discussion is only to see what are the things that have happened, what are the problems that are being faced and what are the suggestions that we can give. That is the main objective of this discussion. I still feel that disinvestment has to be done, but it has to be done in a proper way, by a proper method, and the Government should take all these things into consideration before they go further. I thank you very much, Sir.
DR. V. SAROJA (RASIPURAM): Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for giving me this opportunity to participate in the discussion on disinvestment policy of the Government. Having participated in the discussion on sick public sector undertakings, it is my bounden duty to say something about the disinvestment policy of this Government.
The Disinvestment Commission was set up by a Resolution passed on 23rd August, 1996. It is only an advisory body. Recently they have come to a conclusion that a separate department will be set up. What for? To contribute more to close down all the public sector undertakings and to declare 242 public sector units as sick units! I want to know the function of this separate department. What is it that they are going to achieve by having a separate department, which was not there for all these years? I want to know from the hon. Minister what is the criteria fixed by the Government for any disinvestment. I want a pointed answer for this.
Having decided about disinvestment, is it a fact that the shares are sold at a lower rate than the rate at which these should be sold in the market? What makes them to sell these shares at a lower rate? Where is the hurry? What is the compulsion and what are all the public sector undertakings that are coming under this specific group?
Thirdly, I would like to know whether it is a fact that preference is given for foreign companies than the local companies, and if so why?
I am a Member of Parliament from Tamil Nadu. I am a doctor by profession. I submit that slowly the disinvestment policy is encroaching more upon the health sector thereby the aim of achieving Health for All by 2010 will be totally defeated. The Hindustan Photofilms Limited at Ooty in Tamil Nadu is manufacturing X-Ray films. It has been referred to BIFR. I want a White Paper to be placed on the Table of the House about it because I want to
know more about the details of that company. Patients, not only from Tamil Nadu but from all over India, are suffering for want of the investigation material. They are also being put to great hardship.
In this connection I demand from the Government as to why they are not thinking about having separate Employment Exchanges for the workers who are working in these Public Sector Undertakings and who would soon be out of employment. It is easy to declare a Unit as a sick Public Sector Undertaking. But what is the Government proposing to do with those workers who are working in these sick PSUs? They are to be properly placed. There are many problems from the workers' side. Therefore, I urge upon the Government to have a separate Employment Exchange for these workers so that the rehabilitation process is hastened.
Most of my senior colleagues have pointed out many things about GAIL which is a surprise and shock not only to the Members of Parliament but to the entire people of India. The Government should be committed for the decisions it takes.
It is rather a surprise to me. Why have you taken up the disinvestment of even the profit-making industries also? What was the necessity or compulsion? The Government should come out with details. How are you spending the money that is accrued through this disinvestment? It is said that it will be used for the health facilities and for the social obligations. But it is only on paper. I want to know the exact details.
In its Eighth Report, the Disinvestment Commission said :
"The Commission is pleased to note that subsequent to its Fifth Report, Government is firming up plans for sale of Government equity in GAIL, CONCOR, and Indian Oil Corporation during the current fiscal year and that decisions have been taken on some of the recommendations of the Commission made in its earlier Reports such as granting greater autonomy to PSUs and induction of non-official directors".
I feel that the obligation of the PSUs for the social sector is also the same.
MR. CHAIRMAN : Madam, your Party has been allotted two minutes. I have given you five more minutes. Please conclude by 6 p.m.
DR. V. SAROJA : Thank you sir.
I want to know from the Government whether it is proposed to offer shares of the Public Sector Undertakings to general public instead of offering a whole block of shares to some selected companies.
I would like to know one thing from the hon. Minister. What is the present status of this? It may not be out of place to mention if I say that when the discussion about the sick Public Sector Undertakings was going on last time, the hon. Minister had promised that a White Paper would be placed before the House regarding all these Public Sector Undertakings. Therefore, I request that a White Paper should be placed before the House on the Disinvestment Policy and also about the institutions which fall under this Policy.
I suggest that the Government's Policy should adopt schemes for the welfare of the people, and should not be at the cost and suffering of them, and also not affecting the Indian public and its economy.
MR. CHAIRMAN : We will continue this discussion tomorrow.
The Lok Sabha then adjourned till Eleven of the Clock on
Friday, December 17, 1999/Agrahayana 26, 1921 (Saka).