One slogan that echoed more in the sky of Indian freedom movement was self-reliance India or Swadeshi Bharat. Many groups and individuals were interpreting this nationalist slogan on many ways. But what the common people had the feeling that this was call for Self-reliance, in real terms, the change of mode of production from feudalism to a democratic redistribution of resources. People of India during that time were not accepting the Zamindari, kingship and corporate houses besides the Britishers. What happened then?
1. In post-colonial India the Industrial Policy Resolution of 1948 and 1956 mainly followed P.C.Mahalobis model of lndianisation and gave public sector a strategic role to build basic infrastructure of the economy. As part of state’s monopoly over core sector 277 Public Sector Undertakings such as HPCL, BPCL, ONGC etc. were formed. The consumer sector was left for the private companies to establish.
2. The famous “Bombay Plan” led by GD Birla (Birla Group of Industries), JD Tata (Tata Iron and Steel Company) had approved it. The Bharatiya Jana Sangha and the Swatantra Party had agreed with both mixed economy and Bombay plan. Shyama Prasad Mukhopadhyay the founder of Bharatiya Jana Sangha was the Union Minister of Industry and Supply in Nehru’s cabinet. Later he resigned but for a different reason.
3. Simultaneously, the private sector was rising up in Indian economy with help government loans, subsidies, tax relaxations etc. In 90s onwards due to active supports of the Indian government of all across the political parties, private industries started booming and public sector died down. In first phase 31 selected PSUs (IOC, BPCL, HPCL, GAIL & VSNL etc) including profit making PSU were sold off or disinvested mostly favouring Tata, Sterlite-Vedanta Co. and Reliance. Reliance, more particularly, got patronage of both Indira Gandhi and Manmohan Singh during their tenure. And almost all big private corporates who had acquired PSUs tied up with foreign capital – inevitable strategy of indianisation of atmanirbhara jojana. .
4. Within just these more than four years of launch of Reliance Jio, since September 2016, it the largest mobile network operator in India and the third largest mobile network operator in the world. A monopoly capital emerge when the State came in support of it. The Prime Minister can also be a model for the advertisement like Narendra Modi did in case of Reliance Jio. (Ad if Hindustan Times on 5th September, 2016). Reliance Jio got favouritism from the government of India like;
a) one month after JIO was launched TRAI had announced a steep cut in interconnection charge, resulting in a fall of these charges by less than 50% for Jio to pay to connect the calls of its subscriber.
b) Reliance was just fined of Rs 500 for using Prime Minister in his promotional Advertisement. But such closeness with the BJP attracted many mobile users towards the Reliance.
c) TRAI arbitrarily imposed a penalty of more than Rs 3,000 crore on other network like Airtel, Vodafone etc. on the other operators for not providing enough interconnecting points to JIO
d) Government has not allotted spectrum for 4G services to BSNL in order to prevent it from competing against Reliance Jio
e) Knowingly made BSNL loss for which could not pay salary to its 1.65 lakh employees. Such non-payment of wages helped to spread rumour that BSNL would merge with Reilance’s Jio. This helped the Jio to get new customers.
f) Reliance Jio and State Bank of India (SBI) Yono did partnership deal where Reliance had more share (70%) than SBI (30%). By this agreement, Reliance Co. can access SBI customers’ data. (Indian Express and Live Mint, August 03, 2018)
5. During this COVID 19 when national growth rate is sliding towards negative and many corporates have kept their hands up the Reliance is showing all time high of share price rise particularly after;
i) American social media giant Facebook and other seven US based companies like Silver Lake, Vista Equity, General Atlantic, TPG Capital etc. purchased share from Reliance Jio in between April 22 – June 18, 2020. Facebook alone has invested Rs 43,574 crore in Jio after purchasing its 9.9% share.
ii) Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (ADIA) of United Arab Emirates invested Rs 9,093 crore. Like this, Reliance has already sold its share to three Saudi Arabian Companies.
iii) Reliance Jio’s 24.7% share has gone to foreign hands through 11 corporates of USA and Saudi Arab including most unfaithful company like FACEBOOK. Telecommunication has always been a key and sensitive department like atomic and defence from the national security point of view. Now crores of customers’ personal information including government offices can be accessed by US based company Facebook, WhatsApp and others corporates.
iv) Reliance Jio had tied up to SBI Yono for its Payment Bank. Then millions of SBI account holders. Several individual, business houses, trusts, cooperatives and government offices have accounts in SBI. ‘This, in turn, would imply that the entire database of India’s biggest bank in the public sector would now be potentially available to Facebook and WhatsApp through their association with Reliance.’ (NEWSCLICK, 18th June)
v) In COVID period, the warned that for any FDI take over with border countries like Bangaladesh, Pakistan and China approval of the government of India is essential. But it left US and other countries.
In less than seven weeks, since lockdown started, Reliance Industries has seen investors invest a total of Rs 1.1 lakh crore for 24.7% equity stake in Jio Platforms. Through this government of India has broadened its ‘Atmanirbhar plan’ by selling fate of crores of Indian customers to foreign companies.
6. This is continuation of similar process of bungling the public sector and of giving free hand of monopolisation of few corporates. Already India’s richest man Mukesh Ambani has become doubly richer within the first five years (2014 to 2019) under the Modi government – from about $23 billion to $55 billion. India’s highest mobile users and highest sbi account users have become ‘virtual citizen’ of US based Companies like Facebook.
This is India’s journey from self-reliance to Reliance. Quite interesting. Quite horrible also.
Prepared by Ganatantrik Adhikar Surakha Sangathan, Odisha
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