“They came first for the Communists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn’t speak up because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me, and by that time no one was left to speak up.” – Martin Niemoeller.
The above poem describes very well the current situation of the Indian republic and its government’s action. We all know that the BJP led Central Government is set on privatising a lot of public infrastructure, industries and institutions. The government is doing this in the name of disinvestment and for accumulating funds for development.
One by one, the government is in a race to make privatise everything. As per The Times of India’s report, over 300 PSUs may shrink to barely two dozen as the budget made it clear that there will only be four key strategic sectors, and in these key sectors, there will be a maximum of 3–4 PSUs. The existing PSUs in the non-strategic sectors will either be closed or privatised.
One thing the people of India must understand is that privatising is not the best way to deal with our current economic problem. The process of privatising shows how weak the government is in terms of providing services to the citizens. To understand this, let’s try to answer this question: Why is it important to hold on to these PSUs, infrastructures etc.?
It is important because these are the infrastructures through which the government provides services to the public. If everything is privatised, then what is the meaning of electing a government? When corporates run everything, what will be left for the government?
Since the BJP led Narendra Modi government came to power in 2014, there has been a lot of alteration and disinvestment. Also, there have been many protests against the decisions taken, which are claimed to be the prime minister’s masterstrokes by mainstream media (Godi Media).
Banks play an important role for us through the services they provide. But the government has been shrinking the number of Public Sector Banks (PSBs) either through merging or disinvestments.
In response, the United Forum of Bank Unions, an umbrella to nine unions, had called a 2 day-long nationwide strike from 15 March to 16 March, 2021, against the Centre’s decision to privatise state-owned banks. More than 10,00,000 bank employees were on strike to convey their concern to the government.
After the privatisation of PSBs, people will face problems at multiple levels and people in rural areas will be affected the most.
I personally have been associated with Government projects for more than 4 years and know very well what private banks do when it comes to government-sponsored schemes. PSBs are major lenders to Self Help Groups under NRLM & NULM, lenders to street vendors under PM-SVANIDHI, lenders to small traders and shopkeepers under MUDRA yojana, lenders to people under the POP scheme.
PSBs are used to open zero balance account for everyone under PM Jan Dhan Yojana, insure people under PMSBY & PMJJBY, give financial assistance to low-income group people to set their business under PMEGP, provide KCC to small farmers. The list can go on.
What one must understand is what PSBs are doing for the people in India. I cannot imagine the plight of hundreds of poor and middle-class people getting into trouble because of the government’s decision to make PSBs private. Can you?
PSBs are the backbone of financial inclusion and play an important role in providing financial services to every section. They are service-oriented and not only for making a profit. Their priority is to serve people. One can find these bank branches at remote locations, tribal belts, etc.
There are instances where the PSBs have shown their integrity and served people. One such instance is when the COVID-19 pandemic hit India. PSBs served people and made arrangements and ensured people didn’t have a problem maintaining social distance and following other guidelines.
PSBs are the window for most Indians to get financial services. Making PSBs private, the government directly withdraws itself from serving people and indirectly will increase the gap between rich and poor. It appears as if the government is not working for the people but working for the corporates. It tries to centralise power; privatise everything India has created in the past several years.
Basically, a government levies taxes on people and, in return, provides services to its citizens, maintains law and order and protects us from outside enemies. The current government is rushing towards privatisation. It appears that the government is running away from its responsibilities.
On the one hand, the government claims that it has collected more tax than past years and, in contradiction, is making disinvestments to accumulate funds. All of these make me question the intention of the government.