Updated: March 17, 2021 8:20:59 am
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s tweet on Tuesday alleging that the government is “privatising profit and nationalising loss” and declaring support for unions protesting against the Centre’s plan to privatise some public sector banks drew a sharp reaction from Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, who said that under the UPA regime, “taxpayers’ money was privatised for the betterment of just one family”.
Nine bank unions held a two-day strike across the country against the government’s privatisation proposal.
In his tweet on Tuesday, Gandhi added, “Selling PSBs to Modicronies gravely compromises India’s financial security. I stand in solidarity with the striking bank employees”.
Addressing journalists later in the day, Sitharaman responded to Gandhi saying, “these pet kind of quotations, or using two-liners, does not help the situation”, and stated that as a “leader of the Opposition party, I would want him (Rahul) to engage in serious discussions, rather than throw these two-liners every now and then”.
She said that under the Congress-led UPA government, “over the decades, I think what they have tried is only to privatise taxpayers’ money”.
Gandhi “accuses us of privatising profit” while the UPA government “probably even privatised taxpayers’ money, for one family’s betterment”, Sitharaman added.
On “nationalising loss” Sitharaman said “today, public sector banks are loss making and prompt corrective action is bringing them out, because of the telephone banking that happened during his time”.
“Nationalising corruption is what they did. So nationalising corruption and privatising taxpayers’ money for the betterment of one family is all that Rahul Gandhi will have to take as a reply for that tweet, which, probably, some outsourced fellow in his team is feeding him with. I think there should be some more intense homework done by Rahul Gandhi before he even starts speaking and throwing these kind of things using a spit-and-run technique. Stand there, be ready for a discussion. You raise your points, we will also answer you. Not throw allegations and go away,” Sitharaman said.
The Finance Minister also assured that the government will ensure that interests of the workers of public sectors banks are protected. “I want to take this opportunity to tell… that interests of the workers, interest of those who have put in services over decades, will absolutely be protected. Whether it is their salaries, whether it is their scale, whether it is their pension, it will all be taken care of.”
She mentioned that “even when we speak of privatisation or disinvestment, we recognise that each one of those units perform for the economy,” and added that the government “still need the banks to reach out to the people” and “for these units to function, with more money coming in, with more specialisation, with more modernisation, we need to have some investment come from others”.
Reiterating that the workers’ interests will be safe, Sitharaman said “if we want to sell it to retail buyers within India, it is our duty to ensure that the workers interests are protected, that institution runs further, produces that which we are not able to put more money to produce”. She rejected the “assumption” that those banks will be “closed” and “people are going to be removed”.
“I want to assure, that it is not a quick decision. We have applied a lot of mind, and, also, we are very conscious of the interest of the workers, in very many of these institutions.”
She said that “today we have quite a few number of banks, some performing very well, some performing probably just about all right, and they have a very big role to play, there is no doubt”. Further, she said that the country needs banks “which are going to be able to scale up” which is why there was amalgamation of some banks. “We need banks of the size of the State Bank of India in this country, many more of them. So, we have brought in banks, which are going to be able to meet the aspirational needs of this country. And also, because these need not be, subjective, on the spot decision, we have announced a public enterprise policy.”
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