FOURTH TRANCHE: Centre to privatize coal, open Space to private sector, Defence FDI to be raised to 74 per cent

NEW DELHI: Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman unveiled government plans for structural reforms in eight sectors of the economy, a major highlight being privatization of the coal sector, which remained as state monopoly. Unlike the old pattern of auctioning of mines to private parties for cash, which led to huge scams under the UPA periods, the government intends to initiate a revenue sharing scheme.

Announcing the fourth tranche of stimulus to boost the economy hard-hit by the Covid-linked lockdown, the minister said the aim is to create jobs in large numbers. The eight sectors include coal, minerals, power distribution, defence, civil aviation, Space and atomic energy.

On coal, the minister said 50 blocks will be put on bidding, and the government intends to spend as high as Rs50,000 crore towards evacuations thereof. Also, the government would auction 500 blocks of minerals. “India has the third largest high value coal mines, and still we import.”

The airspace would further be opened for international aviation companies, and the government expects an inflow of as high as Rs 1,000crore per year. Six more airports will be auctioned for private participation in PPP mode. Aim is also to make India a global hub for aircraft maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO). Bengaluru is already shaping itself as one such centre in the country.

On defence, the minister said the government would raise the FDI limit for investment in this sector by outside parties to 74 per cent from the present 49 per cent. Some weapons will face a bar on imports, meaning they can be purchased only from entities within the country. Ordnance factory boards may be listed on stock exchanges.
The field of Space explorations and Space travel will in future have private participation, meaning heavy investment of funds from big business to this sector. In other words, private sector will now be allowed to use ISRO facilities to implement their Space-related plans including satellite launch, which ISRO already does for foreign nations apart from core area of Indian satellite launch.
A research reactor in PPP mode is also planned to be set up by the government which will help in the cause of affordable treatment for cancer.

The last of her five-day announcements relating to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Rs 20lakh crore economic stimulus package for the nation will take place on Sunday morning, the day which will also see announcements regarding lifting of several restrictions on people movement in areas other than the designated Corona hotspots.

The government would also privatize electricity distribution companies in Union Territories, to start with, and this could in future be extended to states too. IHN-NN


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