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Aren’t they prized?
It’s time we redefined what makes one a national asset...

P rivatisation has been one of the most controversial and rabble rousing word, in the Indian lexicon, since the emergence of economic liberalisation. Every attempt to privatise Indian PSUs has not only been greeted with serious resistance by Opposition parties, it has also been termed as attempt to sell off ‘National Assets’ or ‘Family Silver.’ While national parties like BJP & Congress have taken turns to oppose it, depending on whether they are in government or in Opposition, the Left parties have always been opposed to it. In 2004, in an article in rediff.com, CPI General Secretary A. B. Bardhan stated, ‘It was National Democratic Alliance Government that set up the first ever Divestment Ministry. It virtually put India up for sale: it set up a shop to sell off prime national assets.’

The real is issue here is not privatisation but how India as a nation perceives as to what can be defined as a national asset. Inspite of having shed the shackles of the Jurassic Age License Raj, more than 16 years back, India at times reflect the demeanour of a society yet to come out of the mental blockades of the past.

Last 16 years witnessed the ascent of a resurgent India which was otherwise fed on a defeatist, inward looking, timid and a Third World attitude for long. It not only had a Phoenix like rise from the verge of bankruptcy to become a trillion dollar economy, but its companies, instead of getting decimated by the onslaught of foreign companies, emerged as true blue multi-nationals. The likes of Reliance, Infosys, Wipro, Bharti, Tata, M&M, Ranbaxy, Suzlon & Cipla have not only become household names abroad but also helped India have global footage through their relentless cross-border acquisition. Last heard, analysts have stopped counting the countless number of foreign companies being acquired by their Indian counterparts every month. Yet for the likes of A. B. Bardhan and majority of the indoctrinated populace, these companies and their creators are not yet national assets. For them, a company has to be necessarily owned (rather exploited) by the government if it has to have that coveted tag.
Well by that standard, even the Indian cricket team and the likes of Sachin, Sourav & Dravid are not national assets because BCCI is a privately managed entity. Even Shah Rukh Khan, Amartya Sen and the millions of new generation young men and women who are striving to shun the blanket of secured jobs and venture into unknown territories of creative indulgence to give shape to the next generation of Reliance and Tatas, are not national assets. The makers of Rang De Basanti or Chak De who can inspire a whole generation to defy status-quo and become change agents are not national assets either. But... loss making and totally uninspiring companies like National Textile Mills and hundreds like that, are national assets, simply because they are state owned. At will, their bad debts of thousands of crores get written off while young India struggles to get a few lakhs to start a new entity. All that has been done by stalling privatisation of HPCL & BPCL is to burden them with apocalyptic losses so that polity can continue with its game of oil populism. Indian Railways is truly a national asset giving it the national right of killing people in accidents and negligence without accountability. Well, let’s hope a day comes soon enough when, if not the entrepreneurs, at least the common man would be called a national asset. At least in that case he would be spared from paying with his life in terrorist attacks, hunger and political riots.

By:- Edit bureau : The IIPM Think Tank

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