Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Public assets

Introduction of dynamic fares in the national carrier, Indian Railways, appears to have gone haywire with no reduction in fare charges on rational basis from the basic fares fixed by the concerned authorities. In fact, the passengers have been forced to pay more than double the price for every ticket anywhere in the country and even quite higher than the basic fares under Tatkal schemes introduced by the Indian Railways a few years back. The Tatkal scheme was introduced by the authorities to facilitate travel by people, who can pay higher amounts for getting tickets at the last moment for travel via the national carrier. The Indian Railways cater to a large number of the citizens with millions of people travelling on daily basis at a cheap price and its ticket fares cannot be compared to any part of the world besides providing facilities to people in large parts of the country through its extensive network. No other country can compete with Indian Railways so far as vast network and cheap tickets are concerned and that is the main reason why this infra-structure is the largest in the world providing transport facilities to a very large population compared to any part of the world. Instead of improving its facilities, the government is experimenting with the idea of outsourcing some of the facilities to corporate world on the pretext of making it efficient. But that would not be case in the long run because the corporate houses eyeing the vast network and its facilities are looking at earning a quick buck in the name of introducing efficiency in the Indian Railways. This step will again amount to catering to the interests of a few individuals in the corporate world. The transfer of public assets to private individuals will make only a chosen few people richer in the process at the cost of the hard-earned money of the poor masses of the country. If Modi wants to introduce the Gujarat model of development in the rest of the country then all the public assets are up for sale at discounted prices for the corporate sector, who have earned riches only through doling out of favours by the successive governments. In Gujarat, majority of the public assets have been either transferred or sold to the private sector individuals and advancing of loans on cheaper rates for decades together. The interest on these loans are then waived off and ultimately amounts worth thousands of crores of rupees are written off terming then as non-performing assets from the public sector banks. Once this process is set into motion and completed, some destitute corporate managers become rich overnight at the cost of the state exchequer, which is contributed by the poor masses of the country. If some private individuals can become rich on the basis of transfer of public assets to them, the state-owned public enterprises can also be run profitably and revenue thus earned can be used for empowerment of the teeming millions of poor people. If public enterprises have not been able to make profit, it is solely due to reasons of political interference of the politicians in power, who have disturbed the balance through reckless recruitments and siphoning off the money for political purposes. The same assets if put to proper and rational use by the successive governments can earn billions of rupees for the state exchequer. Nowhere in the world, except those harping on the benefits of financial capitalism, the public assets are put to auction by the governments unless they become obsolete models of industry or production. The upgrade in the technology and management is the responsibility of the governments of the day and the people, who own these assets, are not to be blamed for the follies of the politicians. It is no secret that bigger projects undertaken through public financing have become goldmines for the politicians to earn quick money. Ultimately, these projects are declared NPAs and then sold to chosen few corporate men, who fill coffers of politicians in the process.