New Delhi: Railway Minister Piyush Goyal on Wednesday accused the Congress of "double standards" over privatization and said that Rae Bareli''s Modern Coach Factory, which UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi had defended, did not produce a single coach till 2014.
The Minister''s statement came after Congress leader in the Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury raised the issue during Question Hour, repeating much of what Sonia Gandhi had stated a day earlier.
"We got a glimpse of double standards of the principal opposition party yesterday and today in Parliament," Goyal said.
Goyal quoted former Finance Minister P. Chidambaram as saying in his Budget speech of 2004-05 that "disinvestment and privatization are useful economic tools" and that the UPA government "will selectively employ these tools, consistent with the declared policy".
"As a first step, I propose to establish a Board for Reconstruction of Public Sector Enterprises (BRPSE). The Board will advise the government on the measures to be taken to restructure PSEs, including cases where disinvestment or closure or sale is justified," Chidambaram was quoted as saying.
Goyal said there had been criticism about allowing private companies to hold a majority stake in GSTN and in September 2018 the Modi government changed it to a government entity. The Minister also pointed to the privatization of Delhi and Mumbai airports. In January 2006, he said, then Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel announced that the empowered Group of Ministers had agreed to sell the management rights of Delhi and Mumbai airports and they were handed over to private parties in May. Again quoting the 2005-06 Budget speech, Goyal said that Chidambaram had said that "the Securities Contracts (Regulation) Act, 1956, as amended recently, requires all stock exchanges to be corporatized and de-mutualized". Goyal said this proved that the Congress government did privatization in the name of corporatization.
He said the Modi government had produced modern LHB and aluminium train coaches as well as electric locomotives. "We kept the ownership in government hands and did not give away rights to private companies." Goyal said from 2007 to 2014, the Rai Bareli coach factory did not make a single coach. "In their time minor things were done in the factory like refurbishment. We provided jobs to people in this production factory. As a result that same factory made 1,422 coaches in the past year when its capacity is 1,000 coaches," he said.
On Tuesday, Sonia Gandhi accused the government of planning to privatize six rail production units, saying this was the first attempt to hand over priceless economic assets to private hands leaving thousands unemployed.
During Question Hour, DMK leader Kanimozhi mentioned the government''s decision to close down five printing presses run by railways. Goyal assured that no one would lose job and that these presses set up by the British had become totally "uneconomical". "Not a single person will lose job... (but) we will not allow inefficiency in railways." The Minister said that when the world was moving towards digitalization, opposition parties wanted to live in history.