The Modi government in its second tenure is making an aggressive push for greater private-sector involvement in the maintenance, upkeep and operation of national assets such as airports, railways, sports stadia, oil and gas pipelines, telecom and electricity infrastructure, among others. The Centre has an ambitious plan to raise around 2.5 lakh crore rupees between 2021-2024 by means of monetising the assets of several ministries. For the same, Niti Aayog is in the process of preparing a National Monetisation Pipeline and has asked ministries to identify and share information on the assets to be included in the pipeline. A Core Group of Secretaries for Asset Monetisation met last month to discuss the shortlist of assets identified for monetisation in 2021-22.
According to a report by The Indian Express, the assets of at least eight ministries have been listed, which will be taken up for monetisation soon. Apart from these eight ministries, several others may be included to undertake the asset monetisation exercise. Some potential ministries that may be included are the Ministry of Coal, Ministry of Mines, Ministry of Tourism and the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs. The eight sectors whose assets have been listed for monetisation (FY 2021-22) are:
- Railways – Rs. 90,000 crores; 50 stations and 150 passenger trains.
- Telecom – Rs. 40,000 crores; Telecom assets of BSNL, MTNL and Bharatnet.
- Road transport and highways – Rs. 30,000 crores; Road length of over 7,000 kilometres.
- Power – Rs. 27,000 crores; transmission assets of the power grid.
- Youth Affairs and Sports – Rs. 20,000 crores; sports stadia
- Civil aviation – Rs. 20,000 crores; 13 airports of Airports Authority of India; AAI stakes in Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore and Hyderabad airports
- Petroleum and natural gas – Rs. 17,000 crores; pipelines of GAIL IOCL and HPCL
- Shipping, ports and waterways – Rs. 4,000 crores; over 30 berths.
In the current financial year alone, the government is looking to monetise assets worth approximately Rs. 491,000 crores. It must be remembered that unlike the Nehruvian socialism that mandated national assets to be under the control of the government, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is heralding an era of liberalism previously unseen in the country. The national monetisation pipeline will ensure that the government slowly takes a backseat, and focusses on the welfare of citizens and development of the country instead of spending unnecessarily on maintaining and operating infrastructure which can be taken care of by the private sector.
The Modi government, despite the bottleneck which Covid-19 is proving to be, is striving to make India a $5 trillion economy by 2024. Most definitely, socialists who have not been able to overcome the communism gush of their college days will have a huge issue with the government’s push for asset monetisation. Unfortunately for them, sulking in some corner seems to be the best and most viable option available.