The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh-affiliated trade union Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh on Saturday hit out at Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s measures to boost several sectors through liberalisation of norms and increased privatisation, saying it shows “dearth of ideas on economic revival in times of crisis”.

Earlier in the day, Sitharaman announced measures to introduce commercial mining in the coal sector, liberalise the mineral sector, ease airspace restrictions and encourage private involvement in space and atomic energy projects. This was the fourth round of announcements related to the Centre’s Rs 20 lakh crore economic relief package to prop up the ailing economy amid the coronavirus pandemic.

BMS General Secretary Vrijesh Upadhyay said in a statement that there was a need to find novel ways to revive the economy and use “not failed ideas”. “It is a sad day for the nation and its people, who were on a euphoria hearing the first three days’ announcements,” the BMS added. “Government saying it has no option except privatisation is a show of dearth of ideas on economic revival in times of crisis.”

Upadhyay said that the public sector played a “crucial role” amid the coronavirus crisis when the “private players and market were paralysed”. The BMS added that the decisions were taken without consultation and dialogue with trade unions, social representatives and stakeholders, showing a “lack of confidence in their [government’s] own ideas”.

The RSS-affiliated workers’ group said trade unions were already agitating against plans to privatise in most of the sectors mentioned by Sitharaman. “For our policymakers, structural reforms and competition means privatisation,” it added. “The impact of every change first falls adversely on employees. For employees, privatisation means massive job loss, below quality jobs will be generated, profitisation and exploitation will be the rule in the sector. Without any social dialogue, the government is bringing gross changes and is going in the wrong direction. Social dialogue is fundamental to democracy.”

The BMC also said that it is “objectionable” that the Foreign Direct Investment limit in defence manufacturing under automatic route will be raised from 49% to 74%.

It has also warned that allowing private companies a role in India’s space programme and access to Indian Space Research Organisation facilities to improve their capacities will have “serious consequences” for the national security. “We depend on space for many security and surveillance measures which are dangerous to be privatised,” Upadhaya said in the statement.

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