Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Sunday rejected the Opposition allegations of “selling family silver”, saying that the government has devised a clear strategy on divestment so that money of the taxpayers is spent wisely, PTI reported.

“It is not what the Opposition says about selling family silver, it’s not at all,” Sitharaman said at a meeting of business people in Mumbai. “Family silver should be strengthened, it should be our strength...Because you’ve spread it so thinly, there are many of them [public sector undertakings] that are not able to survive; and the few that can perform do not get the due attention.”

The finance minister also said that the government’s aim was to prime the public sector undertakings through its policy. “You need them, you need them to scale up so that they meet the aspirations of growing India,” she said.

In her Budget speech on February 1, Sitharaman had announced that two public sector undertaking banks and one general insurance firm would be privatised this year.

Sitharaman had said the NITI Aayog has also been asked to come up with the list of companies that may be disinvested next. She also put disinvestment receipts at Rs 1.75 lakh crore for the fiscal year beginning April 1, 2021.

The Opposition has criticised the Budget, alleging that the government was selling the country’s assets. Communist Party of India General Secretary D Raja had said the Budget was “pro-corporate”.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi had said that instead of giving cash in the hands of the people, the government was selling the country’s assets to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “crony capitalist friends”.

Congress workers protest against Union Budget

Meanwhile, Congress workers showed black flags to Sitharaman in Mumbai to protest against the Budget and the increasing fuel prices.

A police official said that as Sitharaman arrived at Yogi Sabha Grah in Mumbai’s Dadar area, around 400 to 500 Congress workers started shouting slogans against her. The workers also raised slogans praising former party chief Rahul Gandhi.

The police officer, however, said that the protestors were stopped from reaching the venue of Sitharaman’s visit.

“The protest took place peacefully,” Deputy Commissioner of Police (Zone 4) Vijay Patil said. “No untoward incident was reported. No one has been detained and no FIR [first information reports] has been registered.”

The Congress workers were shouting slogans against the Union Budget and the increasing prices of essential commodities such as petrol, diesel, cooking gas cylinders as well as railway fares.

Mumbai Mahila Congress General Secretary (administration) Sana Qureshi said the general public and the poor people are facing job losses because of the coronavirus pandemic. “Now, the increasing prices of essential commodities will break the back of the common man,” she said. “The Budget has not offered any relief to the common man.”