The recent Budget unveiled the government’s ambitious plans for disinvestment – a politically correct euphemism for privatisation – to help it pay for populist schemes, such as free Covid vaccine shots for people, with which it hopes to win friends and influence voters.
From around 300 PSUs, public sector undertakings, at present, the government wants to reduce sarkari enterprises to just about two dozen or so.
Every time privatisation, in the verbal disguise of disinvestment, crops up, the Opposition makes objecting noises about it. But the fact is that, over the years, successive sarkars have pursued a policy of privatisation by way of a DIY – do it yourself – doctrine.
Long ago the government privatised, or partly privatised, the public sector undertaking of supplying bijli-pani. You want an assured, uninterrupted power cut free supply of electricity to run luxuries such as lights and fans? Adopt the DIY principle and learn to do it yourself by investing in a battery-operated inverter, or a diesel genset.
Guaranteed water in your taps? Simple. Dig a bore well, or call the water tanker guy.
Want to educate your children so that they can at least read and write if not do quadratic equations in algebra? Don’t send them to a sarkari pathshala which like as not won’t have a roof or a blackboard to its name, but opt for a ruinously expensive private school instead.
Feeling unwell? Don’t go to a rat-infested government hospital which will make you feel worse but admit yourself into a private hospital which will cripple your bank balance.
The Indian postal system, at one time said to be one of the most extensive in the world, has almost totally been replaced by private courier services, and the postman who turned up at your doorstep to deliver letters and telegrams has become a mythical being, like the Himalayan yeti.
Many urban residential communities, such as the National Media Centre in Gurgaon where I live, employ private security guards as protection against burglars and other criminals. The PSU of law enforcement has, in part, been handed over to the private sector.
To counter the charge that it has abdicated its responsibility in all these things, the government could rightly say that it is only teaching us the virtue of self-reliance. Privatisation? Let’s call it by its new name. Which is Atmanirbhan.
This article is intended to bring a smile to your face. Any connection to events and characters in real life is coincidental.
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