Pushing the privatisation program in the form of disinvestment

The privatisation program of the bourgeoisie has been given a fresh boost by the policy decisions announced by the Manmohan Singh government on 12th November, 2009. All central government public sector companies which have made profit in the last three years have been asked to get their shares listed on the stock exchange. Listing shares on the stock exchange means that parts of these companies will pass into private owners' hands.  Current regulations require that at least 10 percent of shares of a company must be privately owned for its shares to be listed.  Thus, the present government has initiated the process of privatisation of another 50 public sector companies.

The central government has already sold this year (2009-10) a part of its stake in the hydro power company, NHPC and Oil India Limited (OIL), for a total amount of Rs. 4,260 crore. The government has further announced plans to sell shares of electric power companies – NTPC, Sutluj Jal Vidyut Nigam and Rural Electrification Corporation – in the current year itself.

By gradual sale of government shares over the years, as many as 49 PSUs have already been partially privatised and listed on the stock market. In order to blunt the opposition of the working class, the government is proposing to sell some shares to employees of PSUs and to small investors, at a concession of up to 10 percent.

The Congress Party led UPA Government is pushing the privatisation program in its more gradual form of "disinvestment", meaning the sale of a minority of ownership shares to private bidders.  Even if only 10% of shares are sold in the first instance, partial private ownership begins to play its role.  In the name of "corporate governance", the majority state owned companies begin to subordinate all decisions to the motive of profit maximization.  "Share-holders must get maximum returns on their investment" becomes the dominant theme and the driving force of the enterprise. 

Whether it is gradual or it is all-at-once, privatisation means shifting ownership of productive assets from the hands of the state into the hands of private individuals and corporations.  Decisions such as how much of the value produced should be paid to the workers, and how much should be invested in enhancing the productive potential, are all made according to whatever will benefit the private shareholders. Any reference to the public interest gradually disappears, even in words. 

Some government spokesmen are trying to justify the disinvestment program by claiming that the money collected by sale of government shares in PSUs will be used to meet the capital expenditure requirement of government’s social sector programmes. This is an upside down logic.  If social programs are the prime concern, then why give up state ownership of productive assets in the first place?  Why not manage the assets well and deploy the surplus they generate to finance social programs?  To hand over the surplus generating capital to private profiteers, and then claim that the sale proceeds will be used for social programs, is nothing but trickery. Privatisation is being pursued because it suits the interests of the greedy capitalists.  This is the real motive.

By gradual sale of government shares over the years, as many as 49 PSUs have already been partially privatised and listed on the stock market. In order to blunt the opposition of the working class, the government is proposing to sell some shares to employees of PSUs and to small investors, at a concession of up to 10 percent. 

The working class must not give up its opposition to the privatisation program, no matter if it is pushed gradually or through strategic sale. 

The working class demands and fights for social ownership of the gifts of nature and all productive assets that have been created by the labour of the toiling masses. At the heart of this demand is the principle that the claims of those who toil take first priority, not the claims of those who exploit other people's labour. The wealth of India belongs to the workers, peasants, women and youth, not to the corporations who plunder for private profit!


Major Public Sector Undertakings already partially sold to private investors:

  • Oil Natural Gas Corporation
  • National Thermal Power Corporation                                            
  • Minerals & Metals Trading Corporation
  • National Mineral development Corporation
  • Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd
  • Indian Oil Corporation
  • Steel Authority of India
  • Power Grid Corporation
  • Gas Authority of India Ltd
  • Power Finance Corporation
  • Hindustan Copper Ltd
  • Neyveli Lignite Corporation
  • National Aluminium Co
  • Bharat Petroleum Corporation
  • Rural Electrification Corporation
  • Mangalore Refinery & Petrochemicals
  • Container Corporation of India
  • Hindustan Petroleum Corporation
  • Bharat Electronics
  • Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd
  • Shipping Corporation of India
  • Engineers India Ltd
  • HMT
  • BEML
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