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In A Bid Towards Privatisation, Is The Government Running Away From Responsibilities?

“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.

modi adani
When corporates run everything, what will be left for the government?

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.

Protest against privatisation of PSBs.

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.

The problem with privatising PSBs

After the privatisation of PSBs, people will face problems at multiple levels and people in rural areas will be affected the most.

  1. Minimum account balance: After a bank gets privatised, the minimum account balance to be maintained will increase and can go up 10 times the current Minimum Account Balance requirement. Will everyone be able to maintain it?
  2. Bank charges: Similarly, bank charges will increase, i.e. for issuing Cheque books, the transaction at ATMs, NEFT, RTGS, IMPS, Net Banking, etc. Will everyone be able to bear the charges?
  3. Closure of bank branches: Once banks get privatised, the attitude of banks will be different. The sole objective of private banks is to make a profit, and in this process, banks may shut down some of the low performing branches, especially rural ones. And if this happens, don’t you think the existing customers will face a lot of problems?
  4. Customer base: It is very well known that private banks do not entertain poor people as they use a bank account for their bare minimum earnings, and hence, private sector banks always look for people with huge money deposits. What will happen to the current existing account holders?
  5. Crowd: At this point, one can see that there are people in queues in front of Public Sector Banks and there is no queue in front of private banks. Poor and middle-class people prefer PSBs over private banks because of various issues and if these service stations are privatised, the same population will shift to the remaining PSBs. It will be hard to manage the crowd. Also, the workload of the remaining PSBs will be higher than ever before. How will the crowd be managed?

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.

public banks
PSBs are the backbone of financial inclusion and play an important role in providing financial services to every section.

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.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

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The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

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A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
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