Beginning with the sale of Modern Food Industries Limited and Bharat Aluminium Limited Company in January, 2000, successive governments have been relentlessly pursuing the course of selling public sector companies to private monopolies. During the ten years when the Congress Party was in charge (2004-14), public assets worth more than Rs 1 lakh crore were sold to private companies. During the past four years when the BJP has been in charge (2014-18), nearly Rs 2 lakh crore of public assets have been sold.
When the privatisation program was first launched, people were told that only “loss making units” would be sold. Government spokesmen also claimed that only companies in “non-strategic” sectors would be privatised. It was declared that a set of companies called Navratnas would “never be sold”. All these have been exposed to be lies. The aim of such false propaganda was to hide the real aim underlying the privatisation program, which is to fulfill monopoly capitalist greed at public expense.
By now, privatisation is being pursued openly in the majority of economic sectors. Companies which are in strategic sectors, including petroleum and defence production, are being offered for sale, fully or part by part. The government has even announced that 18 per cent of shares of ONGC, one of the Navratnas, will be sold. With the decision to sell Bharat Earth Movers Limited (BEML), the process of privatizing production for defence has begun.
Indian Railways is being privatized systematically and stealthily. The aim is to hand over all profitable activities to Indian and foreign private companies, leaving only the tracks under government ownership.
The government is selling off its shares in several banks and insurance companies, as a prelude to handing over control to private capitalist monopolies. Natural resources such as coal, iron ore, and other minerals, oil blocks, forests, rivers, lakes and the sea shore, are being handed over to private parties for maximum plunder. Public school and university education and health care systems are being wrecked and opened up for private profiteering. Government schools built with people’s money are being handed over to private parties under the PPP model. The government has openly abandoned its duty to provide free school education and health care for all. Insurance companies and private corporate hospitals have been given a free reign to make maximum profits out of the ill health of the toiling people. Municipal services, including drinking water supply and sanitation, are being privatized. So is bus transport and management of toll highways, airports, ports and docks, etc.
Every act of privatization is accompanied by retrenchment of workers. In order to maximize their profits, the private owners hire workers on contract, denying them all rights.
Privatisation is not only against the interests of the workers of the sector being privatized, but against the general interests of society as a whole. It results in depriving millions of poor people of essential services such as education, health care, water supply and bus transport. It leads to further concentration of economic power and destruction of productive forces and social institutions.