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Friday,03-December-2021

National News

P. Chidambaram poses 20 tough questions on Rs 6 lakh Cr NMP

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P-Chidambaram

Senior Congress leader and former Union Finance Minister P. Chidambaram on Friday posed 20 questions on the Centre’s proposed National Monetization Pipeline (NMP) intended to ‘monetise’ certain assets and earn Rs 6,00,000 crore revenue over the next four years.

Stating that the government should answer the questions, he demanded to know the NMP objectives and whether it was solely intended to raise the revenues over the next four years.

Referring to the criteria adopted upfront to identify the PSUs that would be disinvested or privatised during the previous UPA government, Chidambaram queried whether the same is the case with the current NDA regime.

Pointing out that for infra projects like roads/highways, a PPP policy already exists, he asked what is the difference, if any, between this (PPP) model and the one that would be adopted by the Centre under the NMP, while addressing the media in the country’s commercial capital.

Moreover, if an asset is ‘monetised’ for 30-50 years, what is the value of the piece of paper that declares the government to be the ‘owner’ of that asset, what kind of asset will be returned to the government at the end of the period or would it be a “fully depreciated asset” worth practically nothing.

“Since the NMP is silent on the subject, will the government stipulate in the contract that the amount of depreciation should be put in a Depreciation Reserve Account which was used only to maintain, upgrade or add to the asset so that at the end of the lease period a valuable asset is returned to the government,” Chidambaram asked.

He also sought answers on whether there will be provision in the contract to prevent asset-stripping by the lessee, the terms included in the Invitation to Bid (ITB) to ensure that the ‘monetisation’ process does not create monopolies or duopolies in that sector, especially to prevent such (monopolies/duopolies) emerging in the ports, airports, telecom and power sectors.

The finance expert queried whether the lessee will manage the current levels of employment and the policy of reservations, or other policies, subject to sectoral regulators, etc., in the ‘monetised’ asset.

Harking to the UPA which identified the Railways as a ‘strategic sector’, he asked what are the other sectors the Centre has identified as ‘core’ or ‘strategic’ that would be kept out of the NMP purview.

“Has the government examined the impact of implementation of the NMP on the prices of goods and services in the sector/industry concerned? What will the government or the regulator do in case prices are increased by the lessee of the ‘monetized’ asset,” Chidambaram demanded.

Referring to the government’s revelation of the expected revenue of Rs 6,00,000 crore in four years, he asked whether the government would shed light on the total capital investment in the identified assets that are expected to yield the aforesaid revenue.

“The identified assets must be currently yielding a certain revenue every year. Has the government calculated the difference between the current revenue (undisclosed) and the expected revenue (of Rs 6,00,000 crore) over a period of four years? If so, what is the difference between the two amounts each year during the four year period,” Chidambaram asked.

On the government’s announcement that the NMP would be co-terminus with the National Infrastructure Pipeline (NIP) that is expected to require Rs 100 lakh crore, the ex-FM sought to know how the Rs 6,00,000 crore over a four year period be sufficient to finance a Rs 100 lakh crore NIP.

Furthermore, he sought an assurance from the Centre that the expected sum of Rs 6,00,000 crore “would not be merged with general revenues or used for general expenditure”.

Chidambaram further posed if the Rs 6,00,000 crore, when released, would not be diverted to partly-finance the fiscal deficit (Rs 5,50,000-crore in 2021-2022) or retiring old debts.

The Congress leader asked if the government floated a consultation paper on NMP, consulted various stakeholders including the workers or trade unions and demanded to know the outcome/minutes of these consultations.

He also asked whether the NMP was discussed in Parliament, and if not, whether the Centre plans to consult the Opposition Parties or debate in parliament.

Chidambaram said that the US is contemplating measures to contain monopolization and unfair trade practices of giants like Google, Amazon and Facebook, China has announced plans to rein in its giant tech firms and South Korea contained the influence of its huge family-controlled business conglomerates.

“Does the government intend to introduce similar measures while implementing the NMP,” Chidambaram asked, saying the Centre “is obliged to answer these questions”, and the media must demand replies from the government.

National News

Punjabi singer Moosewala joins Congress

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Famous Punjabi singer Sidhu Moosewala, who was booked on charges of promoting violence and gun culture in a song, on Friday joined the Congress ahead of the Assembly polls in Punjab.

He joined the party in the presence of Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi and State Congress president Navjot Singh Sidhu.

During the induction ceremony, Sidhu described Moosewala as a youth icon.

“Sidhu Moosewala is joining our family. I welcome him in the Congress fold,” Sidhu told the media.

Describing Moosewala as a “big artiste”, Channi said with his sheer hard work, he has won the hearts of millions of people.

Moosewala, whose real name is Shubhdeep Singh Sidhu, is known for his hit Punjabi tracks like ‘Legend’, ‘Devil’, ‘Just listen’, ‘Jatt da Muqabala’ and ‘Hathyar’, among many others.

His name also featured in the Billboard Canadian Albums in 2018.

“I am not entering politics for status or to earn praise. I want to become a part of the system to transform it. I am joining the Congress to raise the voice of the people. I am joining the Congress as the party has leaders who have come from common families,” Moosewala said.

He said he is still living in the same house in his village. His father is an ex-serviceman and his mother is a sarpanch. “Residents of my area have expectations from me,” he added.

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‘MLA not a govt servant’, Kerala HC cancels appointment of late leader’s son

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Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan. (File Photo: IANS)

In a stinging blow to Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, who had given a government job to the son of late CPI-M MLA K.K. Ramachandran Nair, the Kerala High Court on Friday ruled that a ‘legislator is not a government servant’ and cancelled the appointment.

Nair, a first time legislator after being elected from the Chenganoor Assembly constituency in the 2016 Assembly polls, passed away in 2018 following health issues.

Vijayan, in a surprise decision, decided to appoint Nair’s son R.Prasanth as an assistant engineer in the Public Works Department, which led to a huge criticism from several quarters.

However, a petitioner from Palakkad, Ashok Kumar filed a plea in this regard at the High Court and on Friday a division bench chaired by the Chief Justice S. Manikumar ruled that an ‘MLA is not a government servant as they have an elected term of only five years, and hence a government job under the dying in harness mode is not applicable and cancelled the appointment.

Incidentally, this judgement comes at a time when a petition is before the Lokayukta after Vijayan sanctioned a substantial sum of money from the Chief Minister’s Distress Relief Fund to clear off the debts of Nair.

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SP’s ‘Vijay Rath Yatra’ in Jhansi, Akhilesh to address public rallies at 9 places

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 Former Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister and SP chief Akhilesh Yadav is taking out a ‘Vijay Rath Yatra’ in Jhansi on Friday, with the focus on Bundelkhand and will also hold public rallies at nine places.

As per information, the yatra will traverse through Laxmi Garden, Elite Square, Jail Square, Court Square, Kunj Vatika Marriage Hall, Mandi Tiraha, University Gate, Medical College Gate, Medical Bypass Tiraha, where he will be welcomed by the party workers.

After this, he will address public gatherings at Mahant Laxman Das Kanya Inter College in Baragaon, Rashtrakavi Maithilisharan Gupt Mahavidyalaya in Chirgaon and Tika Ram Kanya Mahavidyalaya.

Earlier, in Lalitpur, Akhilesh accused the BJP of “fooling” the people. He raised the farmers’ issue and said that only a family man can understand the pain of a family member.

In Bundelkhand, Hamirpur, Mahoba, Banda and Chitrakoot comprise a division (mandal). Jhansi, Lalitpur, Jalon is another division. There are seven districts and 19 Assembly seats in the area.

For Akhilesh, Bundelkhand remains a major challenge because the BJP has a strong hold in the area and it had won all the 19 Assembly seats in the region.

In the 2019 Assembly elections, the BJP wiped out the SP, BSP and Congress in the region.

The SP is busy in stitching together alliances with small parties to give a tough fight to the saffron party.

On October 13, Akhilesh had launched his ‘Vijay Rath Yatra’ as part of the 2022 UP Assembly election campaign.

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