On Rao’s unpublished article Liberalisation and the Public Sector”

P V Narasimha Rao may be credited for liberalising Indian economy but in a hitherto unpublished article written 14 years ago, the former Prime Minister had raised concern over selling government assets to private sector citing national interest.

Noting that it is “not at all difficult to imagine the cut-throat competition among MNCs to grabbing our PSUs”, Rao felt that the common man would not appreciate the then NDA government’s plans to disinvest PSUs “when they eventually come to know of it all in its stark details”.

To buttress his point, Rao cited the importance of national assets like airports remaining in public sector by referring to how taking control of Srinagar airport in 1947 thwarted the designs of Pakistan in annexing Kashmir. He also went on to rhetorically ask how a government can think of selling Air India, “which carries the national flag”.

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The article, which Rao apparently prepared to present in AICC plenary session in March 2001 but did not, appears for the first time in Jairam Ramesh’s latest book ‘To the Brink and Back’. Rao’s family had given Ramesh, who worked in Rao’s PMO, access to his private papers.

“Even a lease of our airports for a longish period could put our interests, especially security interests, at serious risks. I would like to remind the countrymen how India could retain the Kashmir Valley in 1947 against the raiders by the one single feat of taking control of the Srinagar airport just in time,” he wrote.

He warned that India’s geopolitical situation would never allow any act that loses, or parts with, the control of airports at any time. “It is difficult to imagine the position of a person who lives in his house but allows someone else to control its ingress and egress points,” he wrote in the article titled ‘Liberalisation and the Public Sector’.

“It is most unfortunate that the government should be thinking of selling off Air India/Indian Airlines. I simply cannot think of India selling off her national carrier, which carries the national flag,” he added.

Rao tried to differentiate between the disinvestment proposals during 1991-96 when he was at the helm and that of A B Vajpayee regime, saying it has to be “distinguished from the present decision of outright sale”.

He also said an impression has been created the public sector is “totally unnecessary and that the private sector could have done wonders with industrialisation”.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Sep 4, 2015)

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Ministership: Rao approached IG Patel twice | searching for blue pencil

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