Former finance minister and veteran Congress leader P Chidambaram on Friday stepped up attack against the BJP led government at the Centre on the national monetization pipeline terming it as ‘’scandal’’ and a ‘’broad daylight robbery.’’ Despite the finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman repeated clarification, Chidambaram claimed it was a sale of assets that were built in 70 years by not just the Congress-led governments but also by the NDA government, Moraraji Desai led government and others.
‘’The government proposes to monetize identified assets and earn revenue of Rs 6 lakh crore over a four year period. Will the government clarify and assure that the entire amount of Rs 6 lakh crore, when realized, will not be used for partly financing the fiscal deficit of Rs 5.5 lakh crore in 2021-22 of for retiring old debts?’’ he asked. ‘’ Did the government float a consultation paper on NMP? Did the government consult the workers or the trade unions or other stakeholders? When and where did these consultations take place? Will government make public the outcome /minutes of these consultations?’’ he asked.
Chidambaram said FM announced such an important policy decision not in the parliament but in the press conference. ‘’Congress party will seek debate in the parliament. The government is not prepared for a debate. Why PM not addressed a press conference in the last 7 years? We will keep on asking questions to the government,’’ he noted.
Chidambaram feared that it would be held by two or three people that would create cartelization, monopolies and price fixation. ‘’In economic terms it is asset stripping. Will there be a provision in the contract to prevent asset stripping by the lessee? What provisions will be included in the invitation bid to ensure that the monetization process does not create monopolies or duopolies in that sector? In particular, what provisions will be included to prevent monopolies/duopolies emerging in the ports, telecom and power sectors?’’ he asked.
Chidambaram said if an asset is monetized for say 30 or 50 years, what is the value of the piece of paper that declares the government to be the owner of the asset. ‘’What kind of asset does the government expect will be returned at the end of the period? Will it not be fully depreciated asset worth practically nothing?’’, he asked.