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FM Sitharaman takes Rahul Gandhi to task over HAL

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New Delhi, May 8: Union Finance Minister Niramala Sitharaman on Wednesday took senior Congress leader Rahul Gandhi to task over what she called his “malicious attack” on public sector giant Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).

The Finance Minister said that contrary to Rahul Gandh’s claims of HAL not performing well, its market valuation, under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s tenure, has skyrocketed by 1,370 per cent in merely four years, rising from Rs 17,398 crore in 2020 to Rs 2.5 lakh crore as of May 7.

“HAL on March 31 announced its highest-ever revenue of more than Rs 29,810 crore for FY 2023-24 and has a robust order book of over Rs 94,000 crore. These figures hardly suggest a “weakening” institution but rather one experiencing significant fortification,” she pointed out.

Contrary to Rahul Gandhi’s claim, it was the Congress party that left India crippled, relying heavily on imports rather than empowering our institutions like HAL, the Finance Minister added.

“PSUs that were previously neglected under the UPA Government, such as HAL, have seen a resurgence under the Modi government,” she added.

“Historically, Congress has shown a lack of faith in our nation’s scientists and engineers, fostering a dependence on imports that branded India as the world’s largest arms importer for many years. It is only under PM Modi that we see a significant shift – turning India from an import-dependent country to one that’s now proudly stepping into the role of an arms exporter,” she added.

The Finance Minister said the increased defence spending and aim of achieving ‘Atmanirbharta’ in Defence has fuelled the growth of PSUs like BEL, HAL, Mazagon Dock, etc. In FY 2023-24 alone, India has reported arms exports worth Rs 21,000 crore.

“This achievement showcases our government’s robust confidence in our scientists and engineers, a stark contrast to the Congress’ approach,” she remarked.

The Union Minister cited the example of Air India backed with figures to highlight her point that the Modi-led government had revived airline which had plunged into heavy losses during the UPA tenure.

She lashed out at Rahul Gandhi for what she said were false claims with respect to people losing jobs after disinvestment.

“Let’s take Air India, for an example. It was a pre-condition of the government to the buyer that there would be no removal or retrenchment of employees for one year. Also, even after one year, there will be a voluntary retirement offer before retrenchment on terms no less favourable than maximum benefits. PF and gratuity benefits were also offered as per laws. After a transparent disinvestment, there has been a notable improvement in operations,” the Finance Minister said.

She pointed out that Air India has seen significant growth in employment opportunities, with over 7,500 new employees (both flying and ground staff) having joined the company since privatization. So, far from losing jobs, thousands have joined the company.

“Air India is set to acquire 470 aircraft from Boeing and Airbus for its fleet expansion at an estimated cost of $70 billion. A similar turnaround has happened in NINL (Neelachal Ispat Nigam Ltd) post-privatisation. There has been a perceptible turnaround in the operations of the plant. With disinvestment, the unpaid employee dues of Rs 387.08 crore were paid to them,” she added.

“So, all claims of the Congress and Rahul Gandhi concerning PSUs fall flat, as they are baseless,” she remarked.

IANS

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