PTI: Former Union finance minister P Chidambaram on Friday slammed the Centre’s National Monetisation Pipeline (NMP), saying his Congress party monetised non-core, loss-making assets when in power, in stark contrast to what the Narendra Modi-led government proposes to do.
Addressing a press conference here, Chidambaram said the Congress never sold off strategic assets. “We always ensured that there is no monopoly in monetisation as we chose assets based on criteria,” he said.
Chidambaram asked the government if provisions will be included in the invitation to bid (ITB) to ensure the monetisation process doesn’t create monopolies or duopolies in the sector. What provisions will be included to prevent monopolies emerging in ports, airports, telecom and power sectors,” he asked. What the Modi government plans is a day-light robbery of assets which took years to build,” he said.
Issuing a list of 20 questions to the Modi government, Chidambaram demanded that the Centre reveal the current revenue from the assets it plans to sell.
“Konkan Railway and Delhi Mumbai freight corridor will also be sold,” he said, adding the announcement was made without discussions and consultations and to avoid parliamentary debate.
Chidambaram asked the government to reveal the value of assets that will come back to the government after a period.
“What are the objectives of the National Monetisation Pipeline? Is the sole objective raising revenue over a four-year period,” he asked.
“The finance minister must be surely owning a house somewhere in India. She should give it to me on lease for 99 years and she can hang on with the paper that calls her as the owner of the house. What will I give back to her after 99 years? Will I maintain, repair and upgrade it if I am not the owner,” he said, referring to the government’s stand that it will continue to be the owner of the assets.
“What will be the interest of the party in maintaining the assets if it is not the owner,” he asked.
Chidambaram said in listing the assets to be monetised, the government has acknowledged the work done in the last 70 years.
“A big lie has been exposed by its own list,” he added.
He said people should raise their voices against the danger of selling assets.
Asked if Congress plans to challenge the government legally, he said so far only a policy announcement has been made.
“After the invitation to bid (ITB) process starts, someone will surely challenge it. Congress prefers the people’s court and we will raise awareness about the dangers,” he said.
Chidambaram asked if the government will stipulate in the contract that the amount of depreciation should be put in a depreciation reserve account used only to maintain, upgrade or add to the assets so that at the end of the lease period, a valuable asset is returned to the government.
He also asked if there will be asset stripping by the lessee.