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     Perform or perish

    Finance Minister Arun Jaitley’s recent statement in Parliament that the Government will shut down terminally ailing public sector undertakings is a welcome step. Being pro-business does not amount to being anti-poor. Crores of tax payers’ money was spent by the earlier UPA regime on reviving the ailing PSUs but in vain.  The UPA Government had kept even the terminally sick PSUs alive by pumping money into them at the cost of the State exchequer for political expediency. Jaitley’s bold remark is a clear signal of the shift in the Centre’s policy and indicates that the Government is in no mood to make these money guzzling entities a comfortable parking slot for bureaucrats and politicians having vested interests. 

    Critics say shutting down the ailing PSUs would render lakhs of employees jobless. The argument is no doubt valid but what if the employees had been in the private sector in a similar situation. Would they continue to have a secure job with benefits in spite of their non-performance? It is a point to ponder. No doubt, the Government should support an ailing State-run undertaking but a line has to be drawn as to what extent should the Government keep spending tax payers’ money on propping up sick and dying public sector units (PSUs). In almost half of the cases, bailout measures have not worked. The glaring examples are those of Air India, HMT Ltd, Scooters India, ITI and scores of other such behemoths which have been incurring losses for decades even after pumping huge amounts of money into them. Companies are not established only to give salaries to their employees. They should generate revenue and have some commercial activity. And for commercial activity, something commercial needs to be done. 

    For years, the State exchequer has been paying the price of the Government’s indecisiveness to take a bold stand and the PSUs’ lack of innovation and failure to upgrade themselves with technology. It was high time the Government stopped dithering on the issue and took a call on the fate of the ailing PSUs. Also it is time for the PSUs to introspect. They should realize that they simply cannot afford to run like a Government department in a competitive market and should upgrade themselves to stay in the field as viable entities.



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