Kochi: Describing reports that government was trying to privatise the public sector as a "malicious propaganda", Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee on Saturday said the Centre`s policy was to strengthen PSUs and not weaken them.
Such propaganda is "far from truth", Mukherjee said in his inaugural address at the 29th national conference of the Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC), the trade union wing of the Congress, here.
The government`s policy was clearly spelt out in the Congress manifesto and reiterated by President Pratibha Patil in her address to the 15th session of the Lok Sabha, the Minister said.
"Where is the question of weakening the public sector. The policy of the government is quite clear. The policy of the government is to strengthen the public sector units," he said.
Citing examples, he said Indian Oil Corporation had divested five percent of its shares recently after which its market value had gone up by 124 percent. It has not been diluted. The shares have been bought by ONGC and other public sector enterprises.
After divestment of 10 percent shares which had been heavily oversubscribed, the value of the company, National Hydel Power Corporation, went up by 96 percent.
Referring to CPI-M criticism that government was selling stake in PSUs to meet the revenue expenditure, Mukherjee said the earnings have been judiciously invested.
"We are investing in National Investment Fund, which is taken out of the Consolidated Fund of India. It was being separately managed. Only the corpus remains intact. Only the earnings were being utilised for specific public utility services like education, old age pension, social security," he said.
"What is wrong in it. This policy has been worked out by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Congress President Sonia Gandhi and by me. There is no question of dilution," he said.
He said the government has introduced many changes. People have been given their rights, jobs to unemployed, education has been universalised up to the age of 14. By the end of the 11th plan, each and every hamlet would be brought under integrated child development scheme to provide nutrition to children up to the age of 16 and pregnant women.
On the suggestion made by INTUC President G Sanjiva Reddy for setting up a Workers Capital Trust fund, Mukherjee said he was prepared to hold a discussion with the INTUC leadership.
INTUC should also discuss whether the fund could be utilised for revival of sick industries, he said.
Mukherjee said: `We are passing through a very difficult situation. Due to the financial meltodwn, people lost their jobs, GDP fell, International trade came to a grinding halt causing unemployment in factories. This was not our contribution. We had no role to play. But we had to bear the brunt.`
Thanks to the `far-sightedness` of the leadership, the country could mitigate the adverse impacts and register positive growth, he said.
Union Minister Vayalar Ravi, Kerala PCC President, Ramesh Chennithala, Opposition leader, Oommen Chandy and INTUC National President Sanjiva Reddy, were among those who spoke.