TEMPLES OF MODERN INDIA FOR SALE!

MONETIZATION: The bankrupt BJP government which has allowed corrupt industrialists to loot and plunder the country, now wants to sell what Jawaharlal Nehru called the “temples of modern India” to them. On offer are not only steel plants and Air India but also railway lines and power generation plants.

BY RAJAN NARAYAN

AND few stray thoughts for yet another Saturday. For a Saturday following the week when after the folly of demonetization, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitaraman announced the sale of all public property. For a Saturday following the week when Union Minister Narayan Rane was arrested by the Maharashtra government. For a Saturday following the week when the Goa Bench of the Bombay High Court asked the state government to clarify its stand on the entry of tourists into Goa. For a Saturday following the week when veteran Advocate General KK Venugopal deplored the skin-to-skin contact order of the Bombay High Court. For a Saturday following the week when the AAP government in Delhi reduced the legal age for drinking to 18 years.

INDIA FOR SALE!

AND a few stray thoughts on the shocking announcement by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitaraman that the Centre now proposes to monetize 6 lakh crore worth of government or public assets. This means that mega projects built with tax-payers money is going to be sold to the Adanis and Ambanis. This amounts to total reversal of the late Jawaharlal Nehru’s policy that the infrastructure should be controlled by the public sector. Shockingly, the BJP government proposes to privatize the entire range of public assets including railways, roads and power generation and distribution. The monetization plan also proposes to sell all the crown jewels or navratna” as the profit making public sector companies are called. The profit making huge public sector companies like Oil & Natural Gas Commission (ONGC), Hindustan Aircraft Limited (HAL), Bharatiya Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL), steel plants in the public sector like Steel India and perhaps even the remaining public sector banks. The so called objective of selling of all public assets is to generate adequate funds for social welfare schemes. Though the actual motive may be to build a war chest for the 2024 election for Parliament. The main beneficiaries of the monetization program of Finance Minister Sitharaman is to benefit the private sector at the expense of the aam aadmi. To give an example in the context of our own state Goa, the sale of the South Western Railway will directly benefit the Adanis and the Jindals. Who will give priority to the transport of dirty cargo like coal rather than the interests of passengers using the railways as the cheapest means of transport between Goa and Karnataka. If public assets like the power generation stations and distribution companies are sold to the private sector, the cost of power to the citizen will shoot up as it did in Delhi and now in Goa. The bulk of the power supply to the national capital is by distribution companies like Reliance, called Discoms for short. The Arvind Kejriwal government has been fighting a prolonged legal battle to lower the power tapes and has been able to supply free power to a large section by getting rid of the Discoms. It is not as though all public sector companies are making losses. The Oil & Natural Gas Company (ONGC) which is the main refiner of petrol and supplier of cooking gas, made a profit of over11,246 crore in 2021. Despite which, the Finance Minister probably proposes to sell it to the Reliance Group, which owns the largest petroleum company in the country. The price of diesel and petrol which has already hit a century will rapidly move towards a double century.

MONETIZATION SECURITY RISK!

THE decision of the BJP government to monetize private assets is most dangerous to the country security. If the finance Minister can think of selling the railways and the power generation company including atomic power plants, it might consider selling the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) to a private party. ISRO has launched the largest number of communication satellites and is the backbone of the internet and by corollary the e-learning process which is in place because of Covid-19. In the United States two of the biggest space companies which have been competing to take tourist to outer space are owned by private industrialists (namely Jeff Bezos and Richard Brason). Both of them recently not only took a ride into outer space in their won space craft but even are offering tourist and experience in outer state.

DRDO FOR SALE?

THE Modi government might decide to sell the Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) to the Ambanis or Tatas who already have defense companies. Which means that private companies will be able to supply sensitive military equipment to any country in the world including Talibanised Afghanistan.
May be the ambition of the BJP government headed by Narendra Modi, is to compete with the United States and the Soviet Union, in production and supply of deadly weapons to the highest bidder. Instead of buying Rafael Aircraft from France, perhaps Modi hopes to sell sophisticated military aircraft to the countries of the Gulf.
We have to strongly oppose the decision of the Modi government to monetize public assets. Public assets like the railways and the power generation stations and the mega public sector plans came up when the private sector was unwilling to invest in infrastructure projects. Now the Modi government wants to sell what Nehru had described as the “temples of modern India” when he inaugurated the Bokaro steel plant.
The founder of the Soviet Union, Vladimir Lenin, stressed that power and steel were the foundation of any modern economy. With the exception of the Tatas all the power plants and steel mills, not to mention units manufacturing machinery for industries, were all set up in the public sector. Now that they have bloomed and blossomed the Modi government wants to sell the full grown tree with flowers and fruit from these projects to private industrialists close to the BJP.
If we do not safeguard public property the Modi government might even sell the Supreme Court and Election Commission to the highest bidder. It has been alleged that attempts are on to take over not only the Supreme Court and the Election Commission but also the so called independent investigative agencies like the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). We have to declare in one voice that India is not for sale.

NARAYAN RANE ARREST

AND a few stray thoughts on Narayan Rane, the Union Minister of Micro, Small and Medium Industries (MSM) being arrested by the Maharashtra government. The former Shiv Sena leader, Narayan Rane, who represents neighboring Sindhudurg district in Parliament, was arrested for abusing Chief Minister of Maharashtra Udhhav Thackeray.
Narayan Rane allegedly stated in a public meeting that Uddhav Thackeray, the chief minister of Maharashtra, deserves a tight slap. The comment of the Union minister provoked violent clashes in several districts of Maharashtra between BJP and Sena workers. The Maharashtra police have filed four First Information Reports (FIRs) against the Rane under IPC section relating to creating disharmony or enmity between people in the state and causing breach of peace.
BJP President JP Nadda has condemned the arrest of Narayan Rane, claiming it is a violation of Constitutional values. The BJP chief however, qualified that the party does not support the statement to do with slapping the chief minister of Maharashtra. Nadda pointed out that the Shiv Sena leader has frequently used violent language against senior BJP leaders including a statement like “felt like hitting Yogi Aditiyanath, with his own foot wear for disrespecting Chatrapati Shivaji.”
The two one-time close friends Narayan Rane and Udhhav Thackeray have fallen apart and both have a reputation of being extremely aggressive and volatile. The Shiv Sena and the BJP were part of an alliance which ruled Maharashtra for some time. However, after the elections last year the Shiv Sena formed an alliance with the Congress and the NCP to displace the BJP from power.
Though Narayan Rane has been released on bail, his lawyers have pointed out that Union ministers do not enjoy any immunity from arrest in a criminal matter. Provoking violence by insulting the chief minister of the state falls under the category of criminal cases. Incidentally, Narayan Rane owns several properties in Goa including the Neelam Grand in Candolim.

NO LIBERAL TOURISM

AND a few stray thoughts on the Goa Bench of the Bombay High Court asking the state government to clarify its stand on the entry on tourists to Goa. The state government has opened the flood gates and is wooing tourists to Goa in huge number, like it did last April.
It may be recalled that it this which led to a huge spike in the number of Covid-19 cases. The state government tried to take the High Court for a ride by claiming that it was continuing the curfew even as it kept relaxing the conditions for the entry and entertainment of tourists in the state.
The biggest attraction for domestic tourists to come to Goa has always been the fact that daru is much cheaper in Goa then in the neighboring states of Maharashtra and Karnataka. The long Independence weekend saw an action replay of the invasion of our beaches by tourists carrying booze bottles.
The High Court asked state Advocate General Devidas Pangum to clarify what the Goa government meant by the expression “liberal tourism?” The expression was used in the minutes of the meeting of the Expert Committee set up to manage the Covid-19 problems. The expert committee in its report to the High Court stated that in view of the Delta Plus virus strain in the country liberal tourism would not be permitted under the present circumstances. However, the state is seeking the High Court’s permission for permitting fully vaccinated persons to be allowed in without a Covid-19 negative certificate.
Though the state is claiming that it is against liberal tourism, night life is back in Anjuna and Morjim. Hotels are permitted to remain open till 11pm along with shops selling alcohol. It is significant to note that the Goa government seems to consider daru an essential commodity, as even during the strictest period of the lockdown or curfew there was no ban on sale or purchase or consumption of alcohol.
The state government in its latest curfew order extended up to August 30 has permitted screening of films in theatres and multiplexes. Mercifully, the state has not permitted the casinos to open their doors to tourists. The Goa Bench of the Bombay High Court directed the state government to put on paper what is included and what is not included and who are the people the state wants to grant entry.
The Advocate General claimed that the state was keen on reviving tourism to deal with the problems of unemployment, it did not want to return to the conditions prevailing before Covid-19. The Advocate General pointed out that permission had not been given to casinos to open and that big musical shows such as Sunburn are not permitted. The court was not satisfied and suggested that the restrictions should be proportionately reduced when the situation improves. But the state must clarify whether it wants to permit entry at its borders to everybody without restriction?
The distinction between liberal tourist and plain tourist is confusing. No tourist will state that he is coming not as a liberal tourist but as an ordinary tourist. It is to be seen whether the state reviews the rules of tourist entry into Goa.

SKIN-TO-SKIN CONTACT

AND a few stray thoughts on the veteran Advocate General KK Venugopal deploring the skin-to-skin order of the Bombay High Court. The Bombay High Court had acquitted an accused arrested under Protection of Children from Sexual Offenses (POSCO) on the grounds that there was no skin-to-skin contact between the accused and the victim. The Advocate General called the order outrageous and pointed out that it would have a negative impact on the 43,000 POSCO cases registered every year.
Venugopal pointed out that the order of the Bombay High Court could lead to a situation where persons with surgical gloves on could feel the entire body of a person including private parts. Such accused could claim that they did not engage in any sexual assault. The Advocate General stressed that the interpretation of the Bombay High Court would undermine the protection offered by the POSCO Act to children from sexual predators.

DRINK AT 18

AND a last stray thought on the decision of the AAP government in Delhi to reduce the legal age for drinking to 18 years. The AAP government defended its decision in the Delhi High Court. AAP pointed out that if a person can vote at the age of 18, he should also be allowed to drink. The Kejriwal government said that law should be practical and they have to accept the fact that many young people, even those in their teens, drink some alcoholic beverage. Earlier, a group called Community Against Drunken Driving, had objected to decreasing the age limit from 25 to 21 on the grounds that it might lead to more cases of drunken driving. The AAP government pointed out that there are separate laws to prevent drunken driving and permission to drink at the age of 18 does not mean encouraging drunken driving.
In Goa of course though there may be an age limit, nobody follows it. On the contrary most Goans will swear that fenny has medicinal qualities and in many cases even children are offered small quantities of fenny. Fenny has been made the state drink in Goa and has secured its Geographical Position Index. Which means that no other state or country can manufacture the liquor and call it fenny. Social drinking is part of the culture introduced in Goa by Portuguese colonialists who wanted Goans to get addicted to alcohol. Goans have become so dependent on alcohol that during the Opinion Poll one of the major fears was that if Goa was merged with Maharashtra, the ban on liquor then prevailing in Maharashtra would be extended to Goa.

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