The NDA (National Democratic Alliance) stormed into power with an absolute majority in 2014, ousting the ruling UPA government in the Parliamentary polls. One of the agendas that the NDA rode on, to acquire power at the Centre was the vilifying the previous government’s privatization and liberalization policies stating that they were harmful to the people of the country.
But the NDA changed its stance on the privatization of public assets and inclined more in its favor in the later years of its first tenure that ended in 2019. The move came as a shock to many of its own supporters and voters as it appeared to be a continuation of the previous UPA government, to an extent that the political pundits joked about NDA by calling it UPA III.
As NDA came into power yet again in 2019 with another majority, India buckled up for what was a series of privatization of public assets of the country. This also resulted in several protests and demonstrations against the government. Although the privatization of PSUs and banks did not garner the attention it deserved, thanks to media apathy, the privatization of railways and airports has not gone down well with the sentiments of the people.
In 2019, the center privatized airports at Jaipur, Lucknow, Mangalore, Ahmedabad, Guwahati, and Thiruvananthapuram. The Adani group won the bidding process and has received operational rights for the next 50 years. In July this year, the Adani Group also took control over Mumbai airport from the GVK group. Today Adani Group is the largest infrastructure company in India.
The overzealous Adani Group also changed the signage of the acquired airports with their brand name irking the general public against both, the government and the Adanis.
The members of the union Bhartiya Kamgar Sena, an affiliation of Shiv Sena, resorted to vandalism on 2nd August and wrecked the Adani signboard erected before the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport (CSMIA). The removal of the name of the Maratha warrior was the reason for the chaos caused in the city.
While in the Maharashtra case, the cadre of the Shiv Sena opted for a radical way of protesting; in Assam, Cheif Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma himself had to convince the media and people regarding the changing the name of Lokpriya Gopinath Bordoloi International (LGBI) Airport.
"The name of LGBI Airport will not be changed till I serve as the chief minister and till Narendra Modi serve as the Prime Minister," the CM said while addressing the media.
In all this conundrum, Mangalore and its civil society appeared to have set an example by following a civilized way of protest to get their demands fulfilled.
The Adani Group replaced the AAI signage at the Mangalore airport with its brand name soon after receiving operational rights in 2020. Social activist Dilraj Alva took the responsibility to restore the AAI signage and alleged that changing the name was not part of the procedure. Activist Alva secured a copy of the agreement signed between the Adani Group and the Airports Authority of India.
While addressing a press conference in Mangalore he said, “The change of boards and on Google Maps was in contravention of Article 5.15 of agreement that bars concessionaire from branding itself or its shareholders in any manner, including through advertisement, and display boards.”
Dilraj Alva later sent a legal notice to AAI Mangalore and AAI Delhi, seeking restoration of the AAI signage at the Mangalore Airport. The activist's effort soon bore fruit after the AAI signage was restored on 10th September this year.
In conclusion, there are protests, and there are dissenting voices in every democracy. Mahatma Gandhi led a protest, so did Anna Hazare, so did Rakesh Tikait. In all the protests, there has been a different socio-cultural approach and different background while many of them got good national attention, activist Alva's protest was both unique and commendable and needs a mention. It often happens that activists that take a pragmatic approach and rely more on the executive and judiciary to get their demands met remain unsung; even Mahatma Gandhi’s approach of non-violence would not have garnered public attention if it was not for the South-African media to bring forth his movements. These unsung heroes need to be lauded and commended for their works for these sorts of protests and activism to be kept alive.
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Mumbai, Feb 6: The Congress on Monday demanded the Centre seize the passport of Gautam Adani, who is battling allegations of stock manipulation, to prevent him from escaping the country as the opposition party held protests against Adani outside offices of LIC and SBI.
A Mumbai Congress leader said businessmen Vijay Mallya and Nirav Modi could escape the country because the BJP government didn't confiscate their passports in time.
The Congress staged demonstrations outside the offices of the State Bank of India (SBI) and the Life Insurance Corporation as part of the party's nationwide protests over the Adani issue.
"The Centre should confiscate the passport of Gautam Adani so that he would not be able to escape the country. When scams by Harshad Mehta or Ketan Paresh were unearthed, the then Union government led by Congress had confiscated their passports preventing Mehta and Parekh from flying out of India," Mumbai Congress chief Bhai Jagtap told reporters.
He said industrialists Vijay Mallya and Nirav Modi, who are facing allegations of loan default and banking fraud, managed to run away from the country because their passports were not seized by the BJP government in time.
Adani Group stocks have taken a beating on the bourses after the US short-seller Hindenburg Research made a litany of allegations last fortnight in its report, including fraudulent transactions and share price manipulation at the Gautam Adani-led group, which has denied the charges.
The Congress party has organised nationwide agitations outside the offices of SBI and LIC claiming both the public sector institutions were forced by the government to increase their exposure in various Adani group companies.
"Today, we protested outside the offices of SBI and LIC in Mumbai. We will hold similar protests outside the offices of the Bombay Stock Exchange, National Stock Exchange, and the Securities and Exchange Board of India in the next 15 days," Jagtap added.
Similar protests were held in Pune.
Speaking on the occasion, Maharashtra Congress president Nana Patole cited the Hindenburg Research report to say Rahul Gandhi stands vindicated "as it is proved that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is running the government for a handful of industrialists".
"Our leader Rahul Gandhi has been talking constantly that the Prime Minister is running this government for his friends and a handful of industrialists. Rahul proved right as per the Hindenburg report," he said.
Patole alleged the Adani Group obtained loans from LIC and other banks by furnishing bogus documents.
"Today, the common people (who have their money invested into LIC) are scared about the future of their investment," the Congress leader said and demanded PM Modi give a full "hisab" or account of (the LIC's investment exposure to Adani group) to the people.
"Narendra Modi is shielding his friends which means the work of siphoning off the money of common people is going on," he alleged.
Besides Patole, former chief ministers Ashok Chavan and Sushilkumar Shinde, and other local leaders were present during the protests.
The Congress has stepped up the offensive against the government over the Adani-Hindenburg issue and is seeking a discussion in Parliament.
The party has also demanded an impartial investigation under the supervision of the Supreme Court or a joint parliamentary committee to probe the charges raised in the Hindenburg report against the Adani Group.
The Congress is alleging that the issue involves crores of rupees of common people invested in the Adani Group, whose shares have seen a beating on the stock markets ever since the allegations of "financial malpractices and stock manipulation" came out in the Hindenburd research report.