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Twists and turns on privatization road

India

Indian privatization has no more ardent a campaigner than Arun Shourie, the minister in charge of privatization, and no more determined a foe than Ram Naik, the minister for petroleum and gas.


That they are not only members of the same government but also the same party - the Bharatiya Janata Party - is a measure of how deeply divided India's politicians are over the issue of privatization.


In August, Naik came under fire after reports that most of the 3,000 petrol pump dealer licences handed out by the petroleum ministry went to family and friends of members of his party. Public outrage prompted the government to cancel the orders and parliament was hurriedly adjourned.


At first this seemed a clear victory for privatization. The sale of the two big petroleum refining and marketing companies, Hindustan Petroleum (HP) and Bharat Petroleum (BP), stalled by Naik, could now go ahead.


Damages

However, on August 28, the Supreme Court stayed the government order cancelling petrol dealerships until early November when the suits filed against the order will be heard.


Shourie insists that the litigation will not affect the privatization of HP and BP, pointing out that a state hotel company privatized early this year had 339 suits filed against it.






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