The Left Parties met today and issued the following statement:
On PSU Disinvestment
The UPA government has announced its intention to disinvest shares in a large number of profitable public sector units including the navaratnas and miniratnas. The plans for the large-scale disinvestment of PSU shares has been drawn up by the disinvestment department in the Ministry of Finance. Daily media reports are appearing of the proposals to offload shares in the market of such companies as BHEL, Power Grid Corporation, Power Finance Corporation amongst 35 public sector units. The Cabinet has set an empowered group of ministers which includes the Finance Minister and the Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission to fix the price band for the sale of the shares. It is claimed that disinvestment upto 49 per cent of the shares in profitable public sector units can be undertaken as retaining 51 per cent government share holding will ensure that these units are not privatised.
The Left Parties express serious concern at this policy decision which has major repercussions for the very nature of the public sector. A number of issues arise regarding the decision to step up disinvestment. Firstly, this is a decision being taken by the government and not the public sector units themselves. The CMP has provided for the PSUs individually going to the market to raise capital if they so require it. The funds raised from the disinvestment would be going towards meeting the budgetary deficit and requirements of the government. It can also be seen as a way to privatisation through the back door. Profit-making PSUs can be given the freedom to mobilise resources in the debt market or through debentures in the capital market without tinkering with public equity.
Raising of resources from the capital market should be decided by the public sector unit concerned, if the concept functional autonomy of the PSU, as stated in the CMP, is to be respected. The current move will not strengthen the public sector but only facilitate an easy route for resource mobilisation by the Finance Ministry.
The Board for Reconstruction of Public Enterprises has not yet been formed while the empowered group of ministers is already going ahead with fixing the price for the sale of shares in profit-making PSUs.
The Left Parties would like the UPA government to stop this disinvestment process and discuss this matter seriously as it is of vital concern to the people and the country.
On Foreign Policy Issues
The Left Parties have already expressed satisfaction at the outcome of the recent talks which form part of the India-Pakistan dialogue. Both the Foreign Ministers’ meeting in New Delhi and the meeting between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President Musharaff in New York have created a positive atmosphere for the dialogue to continue. The Left Parties are also happy that the Foreign Ministers of India, China and Russia met at Almaty, Kazakhstan to discuss further strengthening of mutual relations and cooperation.
The Left Parties wish to draw the attention of the UPA government to the following:
1. Indo-US relations
In the ongoing talks with the United States, missile defence cooperation is being discussed. They figured in the talks regarding the “Next steps towards a strategic partnership” during the visit of Ms. Christina Rocca, US Assistant Secretary of the State. According to the US Ambassador in India, both countries have gone beyond talking about missile ballistic defences and the issue to “figure out” which systems are to be put in place. The Bush administration’s national missile defence system is a highly controversial project and it is seen to be a major step towards escalating the arms race with a view to reinforce America’s global hegemony. The Vajpayee government had agreed to discuss missile defence cooperation, a project in which India should not be involved. The Left Parties would like the UPA government to clarify whether any commitments have been made towards joining the US-sponsored missile defence programme. Similarly, the government should explain what is its response to the Proliferation Security Initiative which the US wants India to join.
2. Relations with Israel
The Israeli government is currently engaged in a large-scale military offensive in the Gaza strip. These military operations which began on September 28 have already resulted in the deaths of more than 100 Palestinians. This includes a shockingly large number of children. The UN Security Council had adopted a resolution calling on Israel to stop its military operations which was vetoed by the United States. The UPA government is committed to the policy of extending support to the Palestinian cause. The deep military and security cooperation established with Israel by the BJP-led government is not in the national interests, nor does it conform to our longstanding opposition to Israel’s occupation of the Arab territories. It is necessary for the UPA government to review the nature of the strategic ties with Israel as an integral part of ensuring that India has an independent foreign policy.
3. On Democracy in Myanmar
The Left parties reiterated their support for the restoration of democracy in Myanmar (Burma). The Myanmar government should release Ms. Aung San Su Kyi from house arrest to facilitate the dialogue for the democratic process. In the context of the visit of the Myanmar Head of State to India, the UPA government should state this concern to the Myanmar authorities.
(Harkishan Singh Surjeet) (A.B. Bardhan)
Communist Party of India (Marxist) Communist Party of India
(Abani Roy) (Debabrata Biswas)
RSP Forward Bloc