After having obstructed amendments to the Land Acquisition Act, Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee is now opposing the government’s plans of disinvestment in public sector firms to raise resources.
At the full Planning Commission meeting on Tuesday, Banerjee rejected the idea of disinvestment, and reportedly cited the example of her ministry, which she said would raise resources through public-private partnership (PPP).
Banerjee is the head of the Trinamool Congress, an important constituent of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA).
In meeting various targets of the Eleventh Five-Year Plan (2007-12), the government sees a shortfall of Rs 1,60,000 crore (Rs 1,600 billion) in resources because of the economic slowdown. Hence, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee in his Budget speech had stated disinvestment as a way of raising resources.
Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia said, “In my impression the railway minister had not opposed disinvestment but stressed utilising better the present resources.”
Banerjee had virtually stalled amendments to the Land Acquisition Act allowing private players to acquire land, saying the changes to the law will not benefit small and marginal farmers. The government deferred introducing the amendments to the law in Parliament.
The railway ministry has appointed a panel headed by Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry Secretary General Amit Mitra to look at PPP projects. But major PPP projects like the Rs 50,000 crore (Rs 500 billion) dedicated freight corridor and the bullet train of the railways are on hold with private players showing little interest.