July 18, 2014

Speech in Rajya Sabha on ‘Socialism, Liberalisation & Development”

Sir, I am really very amused and amazed to see the competitive Socialism in the House today, and the enthusiasm amongst all Members to try and show themselves more Left than, possibly, even the Left today. But the biggest amusement was when my colleague, who, of course, has left, Mr. K.C. Tyagi, was speaking and he called us the Swadeshi Jagran Manch people. I am very proud to be associated with the Swadeshi Jagran Manch, and I have no hesitation in saying that I believe that India should be self-reliant, that we Indians should be proud of our heritage and if at all he believes that as Swadeshi Jagran Manch, he can pass comments on us, I think, it only makes us feel more proud today. Of course, I am also very conscious of the fact that Mr. Tyagi does not travel by rail gaadi and he does not even travel by ordinary cars. He uses good cars which are made by modern technologies that have come to India. He travels by air when he goes to the State of Bihar which, today, is deprived of all development, probably, because of the kind of thinking that he brings to the table which, of course, the people of India have outrightly rejected in the last election, and that is evident. But the fact of the matter is that what Shri Balagopal has raised does evoke a lot of sympathy and a lot of interest in the common man because there are certain anomalies that have come into the system. Fact of the matter is that PPP has become the vehicle to take India, out of an under-developed and a backward country that it was once upon a time called, to a progressive country and to a country which is, today, the pride of the world.

Sir, we started on the path of Socialism after Independence, probably because it was appropriate for the times then. But then we saw an era of nationalization of banks, mines, etc. The people of India thought that better times would come for them. But over a period of time, what did we see? We saw that the Government ran telecom, railways, airlines, even hotels and housing projects with DDA-type companies, power, coal, water, etc. Almost every aspect of common man’s life was run by the Government. And what was the quality of service that we were giving to the people of India? Did they get good quality water in adequate quantity? Did this country generate enough power plants or enough power capacity for the teeming millions and billion people? Did we, actually, give housing to people or did we take them into slums and, more often than not, homelessness? Did we create sanitation? Did we give them good quality of rail service? Did the Airlines perform any better as a monopoly of the Government or did it do better when there was more competition in the market? I think the country today is yearning for better quality of service at more competitive prices. It is unfortunate that a section of society believes that just because something is done by the private sector, it, necessarily, has to be bad or it, necessarily, has to be crony-capitalism. The reality shows that there have been instances which have reaped out of corruption, which have reaped out of the misuse of PPP models but, more often than not, it has happened because of political corruption, bureaucratic inefficiency and, maybe, at times, also because of complacency or involvement of the private sector. But just to castigate a good programme because there were certain inefficiencies in the programme, I think, will be throwing out the baby with the bath water.

Today we have a land where we get telecom. This is the cheapest in the world, and in the same telecom sector we have Government companies which are languishing with losses. We have airlines which have given good service, but we have an airline which all of us resolve every year to fund another five to six thousand crores and are given Rs. 30,000 crores of tax payers’ money. We have so many inefficiencies coming into the system whether it is in coal production, whether it is in the area of state-run discoms. Not to say that the other side is necessarily the best but we will have to find solutions to the problem, not just criticize the programmes that are going on. The fact of the matter is, Sir, post liberalisation the country has seen large investments coming into good quality of services, costs have come down in a variety of sectors. I would like to quote an example of the Mumbai-Pune Expressway. Typically, the Mumbai-Pune Expressway would have, probably, taken years and years to construct a huge cost overrun. An honest Government constructed that well within PWD estimates, in fact, saved Rs. 200 crores out of the Rs. 1,800 crores, constructed it in time and had 15 years after it was completed. Even today it was one of the finest highways of India, done by the public sector, done by the Government. But under an honest leader, under an honest

Government it could be done efficiently. And at the same time, we have dishonest Governments which have probably indulged in massive corruption. Being sub judice, I will not go into those details.

But whether it is the telecom sector or whether it is the coal mining sector, we have seen problems in the highways programme. But I don’t think those problems emerge necessarily because the mode is public, private or joint. It emerged because of political corruption; it emerged because of laxity of the bureaucrats.

I think the better solution for all of us is to focus on what Mr. Balagopal has rightly said, we need to have strengthened regulatory mechanisms. We need to have strict monitoring of allocation of natural resources. We certainly need to do improvements in the system, but if we kill the PPP mode, if we bring in over-controls, if we bring in too much of Government interference, I think we will be doing disservice to the people of India, who are looking for a better quality of their lives, who are also looking at more affordability, which unfortunately, the public sector by itself has failed to give to the people of India.

This I am saying as a Member of the House because I passionately believe that we have to evolve more and more public-private joint partnership and, as Mr. Narendra Modi says, we have to bring the people also into that and I would urge upon Mr. Balagopal, Mr. Rajeev and Mr. Tyagi to participate in this movement, bring in probity. Otherwise, the nation will be left with States like Bihar and with States like West Bengal which for a large part was run by his own party, which has remained over the years deprived of the benefits of liberalization, probably on development.

Subscribe to Newsletter