CHENNAI: Former Union law minister Ashwani Kumar on Thursday claimed the Centre's National Monetisation Pipeline (NMP), to unlock value in brownfield projects by engaging private sector, is wholly ill-conceived, untenable and intended to hoodwink the people from pressing national issues like price rise, unemployment and others.
Terming the policy as a "cruel joke," he said the NMP is "virtually a transfer of taxpayer-funded assets to a handful of business groups."
"It will lead to a rising concentration of economic power in crucial sectors of the economy in the hands of a few and will also affect the price stabilisation," the Congress leader said.
Speaking to reporters at Satyamurthy Bhavan, the party state headquarters here, Ashwani Kumar alleged the Centre was attempting to part with national assets to the tune of Rs 6 lakh crore by telling the nation that Rs 100 lakh crore would be invested in infrastructure.
"How is it possible, in any case if any mathematical formula is applied, to fund Rs 100 lakh crore through the collection of Rs 6 lakh crore over a period of four years? This is a cruel joke on the people of the country," he remarked.
On the face of it, the NMP appeared to be an attempt to "legitimise a mechanism to favour a select few at the cost of the nation," he added.
The NMP, he said, is "untenable and a mala fide attempt to hoodwink the people by distracting them from the real issues confronting India, especially price rise, unemployment, mismanagement, etc."
The policy could effectively lead to job insecurity and could defeat the policy of reservation in jobs for SC, ST, OBCs etc., he added.
The former minister sought to know how the loss of revenue on the return of the assets will be factored in.
The justification of collecting Rs 6 lakh crore for facilitating Rs 100 lakh crore investment in the infrastructure sector is an obvious absurdity.
"You can't expect the private sector to invest without profit The NMP is a grand clearance sale a fire sale - of national assets," he charged.
Unlike the BJP government, the Congress-led UPA government disinvested only those PSUs which were chronically making losses or had a minimal share in the market and it never agreed to sell strategic assets, Kumar said when his attention was drawn to the UPA's privatisation policy.
The funds raised through NMP will be like a drop in the ocean to revive the economy, he opined.
The government recently unveiled a four-year National Monetisation Pipeline worth an estimated Rs 6 lakh crore aiming to unlock value in brownfield projects by engaging the private sector, transferring to them revenue rights and not ownership in the projects, and using the funds so generated for infrastructure creation across the country.
Arguing that this will result in loss of public revenues for 30 to 50 years, Kumar said the effective return from the parting of public assets thus needs to factor in this loss of revenue.
Also, he alleged that no effective consultation with stakeholders took place before the announcement of this "grand clearing sale policy, which is a fraud on power."