National Monetization Pipeline; a heated political argument

On 23rd August, Monday, Union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced the Rs 6-trillion National Monetisation Pipeline of assets, including a range of assets put on the block for private sector participation.

It would also include the Centre’s four-year plan to monetize its brownfield infrastructure assets.

Union Budget 2021-22 had emphasized asset monetization to raise innovative and alternative financing for infrastructure.

The NMP is a roadmap for asset monetization of various brownfield infrastructure assets across sectors, including roads, railways, aviation, power, oil and gas, and warehousing. Up to 25 airports, 40 railway stations, and 15 railway stadiums, among other installations, have been identified for private investment.

Among the assets the government plans to lease is 26,700 km of roads, 90 passenger trains, 400 railway stations, 28,608 circuit km transmission lines, 286,000 km of Bharatnet fibre network, and 14,917 towers owned by state-run Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd and Mahanagar Telecom Nigam Ltd

“Monetising operating public infrastructure assets is a very important financing option for new infrastructure construction. A National Monetization Pipeline of potential brownfield infrastructure assets will be launched,” Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said.

The Centre aims to raise ₹88,000 crores by leasing infrastructure assets of central government ministries and state-run companies under a ₹6 trillion National Monetisation Pipeline (NMP) this year.

The government has prepared A portal with an asset monetization dashboard to monitor the real-time progress of NMP. It will provide a one-stop-shop to investors.

But ever since the announcement, the NMP has become a huge political flashpoint as the NMP received heavy criticism from the opposition as

Big names from the Congress party Trinamool Congress, Rashtriya Janata Dal, and former Finance Minister P Chidambaram lashed out at the Centre’s decision.

Rahul Gandhi accused the government of “selling India’s crown jewels,” claiming that the move aims at helping “2-3 private players” and compared the decision with the British East India Company, creating a monopoly.

While addressing a press conference, former finance minister P Chidambaram and Rahul Gandhi said, “The Narendra Modi-led government is in the process of selling India’s crown jewels built by previous governments with public money over 70 years. We are not against privatization. Our (UPA government’s) privatization had a logic, and there was no privatization of strategic industry such as the railways. All this privatization is for creating monopolies. You know who owns ports and (is) getting airports.”

Adding about Bharatiya Janata Party creating a Monopoly, he said, “I had warned about Covid, and you all made fun of me. When this starts, your chances of getting employment will be less. The assets of India are being sold, and it is an attack on your future. Modi Ji believes large monopolies can save this country. You will see a dramatic increase in anger and violence. He is an instrument for doing some particular job for these people.”

“The BJP’s slogan was that there had been no development in 70 years. Yesterday the finance minister announced a decision to monetize all the assets built in the past 70 years,” he further said.

He urged Congress to make a comprehensive report examining the impact the NMP will have, including that on current reservation schemes.

At the conference, Former finance minister P. Chidambaram said that the government wasn’t thinking about the project, and there are no criteria and goals for the monetization scheme.

“We are going to raise Rs.1.54 lakh crore every year — can this be a sole goal to sell assets? You don’t embark upon the exercise without consulting stakeholders. This is all hatched in secrecy in this wonderful organization called Niti Aayog. How can you match Rs.100 lakh crore with Rs.6 lakh crore in five years?” He questioned.

Sachin Pilot too, claimed that the asset monetization programme was selling the assets to the private sector at ‘throwaway prices. “The Centre should help poor and middle-class people instead of handing over the assets of the country to select people,” Pilot said.

Calling the decision unfortunate, Mamata Banerjee alleged that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is mistaking national assets as their own assets or for the Prime Minister.

“These are not PM Modi’s or the BJP’s assets. These are national assets which belong to the country. The Prime Minister cannot sell the national assets. It is an unfortunate decision and I am shocked. Many people will join me in condemning this decision,” Mamata said while addressing a press conference

Senior party leader of the Trinamool Congress Sukhendu Shekhar Roy called it a dangerous bid. “NMP is an unprecedented anti-people move which did not figure in the BJP election manifesto for the 2019 Lok Sabha polls,” he said.

Rashtriya Janata Dal leader Tejashwi Yadav called it a “sinister plan” to curtail government jobs, which is against the interests of people and the country, reported news agency ANI.

Hitting back at the critical commentary of the opposition, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said, “Does he (Rahul Gandhi) understand what monetization is? It was Congress that sold the country’s resources and made kickbacks in it.”

Mocking him while questioning about 2008 RFP, she said, “Didn’t the Congress government bring RFP (Request for Proposal) to the New Delhi railway station in 2008? I would want to ask Rahul Gandhi, who owns the railway station now. Jijaji (brother-in-law)?”

During an interaction with bankers in Mumbai, Nirmala Sitharaman mentioned how Rahul Gandhi had torn an ordinance in front of the media when the then Prime Minister was out of the country.

“Why didn’t he tear up the RFP for New Delhi Railway station if he was against monetization?” she questioned. She further said, “Our policy is not about selling off. There will be a strict handing back.”

Addressing the launch of the NMP, she had said, “The ownership of the assets will remain with the government. There is a mandatory hand back rule. The national monetization pipeline focuses on brownfield assets where investment was made and is languishing or remains under-utilized.”

National Monetization Pipeline
National Monetization Pipeline

Ms. Sitharaman’s cabinet colleague, Union minister Smiriti Irani too, ripped into the Congress and Rahul Gandhi. “In 70 years of Independence, the district the MP led (Amethi) did not even get a district hospital. Their problem is that 6 lakh crore rupees will come from this disinvestment. That’s why they are having trouble,” she said.

“When there was the Congress party’s government in Maharashtra, they had done Rs 8,000 crore monetization in the Mumbai-Pune Expressway project. So, is Rahul Gandhi saying that the Congress government in Maharashtra sold off the Mumbai – Pune Expressway to the private sector?” Irani further went on to question.

“Similarly, in 2008, one RFP was floated for the New Delhi Railway Station when the Congress party government was in power at the Centre. Is Rahul Gandhi saying that the government in which the head of the government was his mother Sonia Gandhi was that government trying to sell off the country and its assets?”

“Again, in 2006, the privatization drive of airports was started by the Congress-led Union government which was headed by Sonia Gandhi, so is Rahul Gandhi, implying that the Congress government sold off roads, railways, and airports of the country,” Irani said.

In a statement calling out Rahul Gandhi’s “hypocrisy” she said, “The manner in which Rahul Gandhi has commented has once again reflected his political hypocrisy and bankruptcy. It again proves that he had shamelessly tried to target the Central Government which has brought the entire monetization process in a transparent manner and fill coffers of the country and saved the country from the ‘thieves’ of the Congress party.”

She highlighted that the Narendra Modi government has started this process for the development and progress of the country and to save the country from the “corrupt Congress”.

“The National Monetisation Pipeline announced by the Union Finance Minister, yesterday was very clearly stated that the the government will continue to hold the ownership of all its assets. Apart from keeping the ownership rights of all the assets in the entire monetization plan, the government has also decided to ask the state governments to appoint its nodal officers for the entire monetization process,” she said.

“Does Rahul Gandhi believe that all the Congress governments in the states which are undertaking the monetisation drives are also selling off their states and its assets to the private parties?”

“Some people are thinking and spreading canards that the government will sell off these properties, but it is a big lie. The government will continue to hold the ownership of all these properties. The government will give on lease only those properties which are underutilized assets. The ownership of these properties will continue to remain with the government, and the private sector partners will have to compulsorily return it to the government after a fixed time period,” she said.

“The money raised from the entire monetisation plan will be spent in massive infrastructure development that will further boost growth and development of the country,” she added.

Adding to everything, senior BJP leader and Union minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said on 24th August that the Congress party is a “non-performing asset” that has no value.

Speaking to reporters, Naqvi called the opposition party a “depressed defaulter dynasty” and a “champion of confusion and contradiction”.

While the Modi government and the BJP are engaged in the “construction of the country”, the Congress is involved in the “destruction of the country”, he alleged.

All that can be said on the condition of the Congress is “good luck and get well soon,” he said.

The argument, discussions, and allegations are expected to keep coming, as this is one massive move in the Indian economy. The many political parties now uniting against the BJP government will not be a silent spectators to this.

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Saad Ansari
Saad Ansari
Saad Ansari has a deep interest in analysing domestic and global newsworthy incidents. Inquisitive extroverted and a writer at heart, he loves understanding things and then forming a perspective to intrigue over. Currently, he is pursuing BA in Multimedia and Mass Communication at Bunts Sangha's SM Shetty College, Powai. He can be reached at: [email protected]
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1 COMMENT

  1. Let’s oppose the National Monetisation Pipeline.

    The Central government has unveiled a four-year National (Asset) Monetisation Pipeline (NMP) aiming to garner Rs 6 lakh crore. The NMP is aimed at handing over huge functional infrastructural assets of the country to private corporate companies and big business houses, including foreign MNCs. The corporate cronies of the government will be allowed to mint huge money utilising the assets built with people’s money and labour. In the same line many NDA led state governments have also started the exercise of gifting the state owned assets and land to private corporate.

    Privatisation at any cost and by any means has become the hallmark of this government. It is now seeking to hand over the huge state-owned infrastructural assets for upfront payment for future expected income. That is the sinister design of this so called NMP, which is going to handover the right of operating these huge infrastructural assets for a period of 30-35 years to the monopolies. This would adversely impact the entire economy availing these infrastructural services. It will result in further worsening of the already alarming situation of job losses and unemployment.

    Infrastructural assets identified for monetisation include 400 railway stations, 90 passenger trains, 1400 km railway track, 741 km Konkan Railway, 15 railway stadiums and selected railway colonies, 265 railway goods sheds and 4 hill railways –all for a mere Rs 1.5 lakh crore; 25 Airports fully modernised with huge investment out of the public exchequer for only Rs 20,782 crore; 160 coal mining assets with huge coal reserves—for only Rs 28,747 crore; 3930 km long petroleum pipe line—for a paltry Rs 22503 crore; 31 projects in 9 major ports with huge network of navigable waterways –all for Rs 12,828 crore; Warehouses of Food Corporation of India and Central Warehousing Corporation of total storage capacity of 210 lakh MT –for only Rs 28,900 crore—these are few more examples of day-light robbery of the national exchequer in the name of “Asset Monetisation”.

    Also 28,608 circuit kilometres electricity grid under Power Grid Corporation of India and around 30,000 kilometres of highways are also being handed over to private corporate for long-term with monopoly operational rights. Along with the NMP, government has now come out with a land monetisation programme and a public sector company titled ‘National Land Monetisation Corporation’ has been set up to facilitate selling away huge land assets of PSUs, railways, defence sector, BSNL, etc., for a pittance. And this is not all – the NMP project envisages further flow of more infrastructural assets through that pipeline to private corporates giving them long-term monopoly rights.

    The present regime with its historical opposition to the public sector and to self-reliant development of the national economy based upon it, is resorting to privatisation of the entire public sector covering infrastructure, industries and public utility services, by any means and at very low prices. It is completely unconcerned about the destructive impact of these measures on the national economy and our people. In the thirty-odd years of neoliberal policy regimes, the present regime account for the overwhelming share of disinvestment of public sector enterprises.

    Decisive and determined struggles against the loot and handing over of people’s assets to big business, domestic and foreign, in the name of “monetisation” of assets should be developed.

    The Union government claims that the NMP involves only a lease of assets, not their sale. This is a patently misleading claim. The big business entities that make use of the assets leased to them will, through fleecing their customers and other means, make huge gains worth several times the paltry lease amounts they pay to the government.

    There is no guarantee that the assets will be returned to/taken back by the government at the end of the lease period in the same conditions as at the time of lease. The entire exercise begs the simple question of why the assets cannot be operated by the government to benefit the people.

    Let’s oppose the Union government’s anti-national and anti-people project of “National Asset Monetisation Pipeline”. This anti-national design of loot on national assets shall not pass.

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