NEW DELHI — Rahul Gandhi, leader of the Indian National Congress, accused the Bhartiya Janata Party-led Central Government of India of  “putting India on sale.”

He lashed out at the Centre over the proposed National Monetization Pipeline.

“The very first thing they sold was respect and now #IndiaOnSale,” tweeted Gandhi on Aug.25.

Earlier on Aug. 24, the member of Parliament from the southern Indian district, Wayanad, termed the Centre’s National Monetization Pipeline as a “huge tragedy,” saying that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government had mishandled the economy and the move was aimed at creating monopolies in specific sectors.

“What this country has built over the last 70 years is being given away,” he said. “There is an excuse they have come up with that we are leasing these. The government mishandled the economy and didn’t know what to do.”

“The Bhartiya Janata Party and Prime Minister Modi say nothing happened in the last 70 years. But yesterday, the finance minister decided to sell the assets that have been built over the last 70 years. They (the government) have destroyed what the United Progressive Alliance built, and now as a last resort, they are selling everything that we had helped create. To me, this is a huge tragedy.”

His remarks came after Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, on Aug. 23, launched the National Monetisation Pipeline that includes the Centre’s four-year plan to monetize its brownfield infrastructure assets.

The government has planned an INR 6 lakh crore ($80837 million) pipeline of assets that can be monetized, including a range of assets put on the block for private sector participation, over four years, from Financial Year 2022 to Financial Year 2025.

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Aug. 25 targeted the opposition over its criticism of the National Monetization Pipeline, saying it should have done its homework before questioning the Centre.

Sitharaman accused the opposition of misleading people.

“Congress was the one to monetize Mumbai-Pune corridor and New Delhi railway station,” said Sitharaman.

“We are not selling anything. The opposition is misleading people by spreading something which is not true. The opposition should have done their homework before questioning the Centre.”

The Communist Party of India-Marxist had also slammed the government over National Monetization Pipeline, saying it “details the loot of national assets and infrastructure.”

The Finance Minister said she had requested the public sector banks to have interaction with export promotion agencies at various regional levels as well as with chambers of commerce and industry so that “requirements of exporters can be timely well-addressed.”

She said the nature of banking is also changing.

“We see even from industry inputs that people can raise finances even outside of the banking system,” said Sitharaman, adding that industries have recognized that they have avenues outside of the banks.

The Minister said banks have also raised revenues from the markets.

She said the Finance Ministry had asked banks to identify sunrise sectors and extend their services to understand them.

“Banks should also look into the FinTech sector, as it requires assistance,” she stated.

The Minister also expressed concern over credit development in eastern Indian states like Odisha, Bihar, Jharkhand, and West Bengal and said it could be made better.

“Current Account Saving Account deposits are piling up in the eastern states,” Sitharaman said.

“Banks should give facility of greater credit expansion in that region. So the credit flow for business development in that region can be better promoted.”

She said the government was paying interest for oil bonds issued during the rule of the United Progressive Alliance, and its hands were tied.

“When the economy was doing well in the years 2006, 2007, and 2008 before the global crisis came, the government of that time was issuing oil bonds,” said Sitharaman.

“We are paying back those bonds now and due to which our hands are tied.”

Terming it “trickery” by the United Progressive Alliance government, Sitharaman said if the economy was doing good at the time as claimed by the then government, “why did they issue oil bonds which they didn’t even have to show in their budgets.”

“If that government had released a white paper before leaving, all trickery would have come to the fore,” she said.

(With inputs from ANI)

Edited by Saptak Datta and Ritaban Misra

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