Meeting against privatisation held in Pune

Workers of unions from different sectors and people’s organisations held a very successful meeting in Pune to jointly oppose the anti-worker, anti-people and anti-national program of privatisation

Since its inception in 1991, various governments at the Centre and in many states have done their best to implement the program of Globalisation through Privatisation and Liberalisation. Workers’ unions as well as people’s organisations have been fighting strongly against it and also have managed to stall the governments’ plan in a number of cases.

Attempts have been made to forge a strong, united opposition to the program of privatisation, which the government has been focusing on. This fight received a welcome boost when a joint meeting was held in Pune on June 12, 2022 to develop a joint action plan against privatisation.

The meeting was organised by All India Punjab National Bank Officers Association (AIPNBOA), All India Station Masters Association (AISMA), Central Railway Track-maintainers Union (CRTU), Kamgar Ekta Committee (KEC), Maharashtra State Electricity Workers Federation (MSEWF), Pune District Bank Employees Association (PDBEA), and Subordinate Engineers Association (MSEB). Activists and leaders of many organisations participated.

Pradip, Secretary, Pune of Kamgar Ekta Committee (KEC) welcomed everyone present. The meeting was conducted by Shri Girish Bhave, Joint Secretary of KEC. Shri Shailesh Tilekar (General Secretary, PDBEA), Shri Dashrath Nagrale (President, CRTU, Pune Division), Com. Krushna Bhoyar (General Secretary, MSEWF, and National Secretary, All India Federation of Electricity Employees), Shri Vitthal Mane (President, All India Punjab National Bank Officers Association, AIPNBOA and Organising Secretary, All India Bank Officers Confederation, AIBOC, Maharashtra and Goa) and Shri Sunil Jagtap (Senior Vice Chairman, All India Power Engineers Federation, AIPEF) addressed the meeting. Leaders of All India Station Masters Association (AISMA) could not attend, so they sent their best wishes.

An overview of the issue was presented by Shri Ashok Kumar, Joint secretary, KEC through a bilingual (English and Hindi) PowerPoint presentation. It was stressed that privatisation is an agenda of the capitalist class. It is particularly beneficial for big monopoly capitalists, Indian or foreign, and has been implemented by various parties both at the Centre and in many states.

We workers have tremendous power, as shown by the immediately successful recent struggles of workers in the electricity and railway sectors. We have to realise our strength and use it for the benefit of the whole country and its people.

It is vital to educate public sector workers about the conditions and successful struggles waged by other workers. After all they are the users and consumers of all other sectors. Similarly, we have to educate and mobilise to our cause the people at large. While we are in lakhs, they are in crores. Struggles against particular attempts at privatisation have been waged successfully where the workers have been united overcoming barriers of union, party and other affiliations and ideologies, and have mobilised people to their cause.

We have to build a strong unity based on the principle, “An attack on one is an attack on all!”

Bank leaders pointed out that in order to increase corporate profits, public sector banks have been deliberately weakened, especially via write offs, NPAs (non-performing assets, which simply means loans that will not be paid back) and mergers. In the last 10 years alone, 82% of the total corporate loans were declared to be NPAs. After being the cause of bank losses, corporates now want to buy the banks themselves, and the governments have been facilitating them!

Public sector banks allow zero-balance accounts, provide education loans and mudra loans, and even provide loans of small amounts of a few thousand rupees, while private banks do not. A huge part of the country’s population involved in agriculture is dependent on small loans. Privatisation of banks will deprive them from banking services and farmer suicides will increase. Bank mergers have led to the closure of nearly 6000 bank branches in rural areas.

Leaders of electricity workers pointed out that Tata, Birla and other capitalists were the ones who advised the Nehru government to nationalise sectors like roads, power and water as these sectors would require a lot of capital. Today these very capitalists have grown so big that they want to take over the profit-making parts of the public sector.

Government propaganda that privatisation will enable consumers to choose their electricity distribution company is utterly false. In fact, it is the other way round – private player will choose the consumers! Urban areas like Pune will be privatised because they are profitable. Privatisation of electricity distribution will lead to higher charges. Rural and tribal folk will not be able to afford it.

Railway leaders gave examples of the extortionate fares charged in the Tejas Express, which is a private train. Indian Railways provides over 100 concessions of different types. Which capitalist would do that? All passengers would suffer.

Critical jobs in the railways are being given out on contract and they are being done by untrained workers. This is another type of privatisation, which is dangerous for passengers and very exploitative for the workers hired thus.

The leader of the Defence Employees pointed out how gravely the security of the country would be affected if the defence production including guns, bullets, ammunition, parachutes, uniforms and other equipment is handed over to private players to maximise their profits. When the workers went on an indefinite strike in October 2020 against attempts to corporatize the Ordnance Factories Board (OFB), the government thwarted them by imposing the Essential Defence Services Act and corporatized OFB in 2021. How can handing over essential services to profit hungry corporations ever be justified?

The professors’ leader pointed out that the education sector is basic to all other sectors and that teachers are also workers. Governments have been destroying public education by lowering the quality of the institutions. The government is set to further push privatisation via the New Education Policy. Actually good public education is a fundamental need and should be affordable for all.

When the floor was opened for interventions, Com Sunil Bajare (President, Pune Division of the National Railway Mazdoor Union), Dr. Geeta Shinde ((President, Savitribai Phule Teacher’s Association of the Pune University), Com. Mohan Hol (All India Defence Employees Federation) and Ms. Sheena (National Spokesperson, Purogami Mahila Sangathan, and member, KEC, Pune) were called upon to express their views.

It was pointed by many speakers that from history we can draw the conclusion that involving women and youth is vital for our success. The mainstream media is owned by the monopoly capitalists or controlled by the government which in turn has to satisfy the capitalists. However, youth can help us use social media and build alternative media for workers and other toiling people.

The Draft Resolution was read out by Shri Bhave, speaking on behalf of the organisers. It was unanimously approved. See Box.

We congratulate the organisers and participants for this important initiative and are sure that it will inspire everyone to strengthen the fight for our common cause!

RESOLUTION

Passed unanimously at the meeting, “Unite against anti-worker, anti-people and anti-national policy of privatisation”, held on 12 June at Patrakar Bhavan, Pune

Since the launch of the New Economic Policy of Globalization through Liberalization and Privatization in 1991, various governments at the centre and in most states have been trying their best to implement it. This policy benefits big capitalists and corporates, both Indian and foreign because it helps to maximise their profits. Governments have been pushing it under various names like corporatization, divestment, outsourcing, contractualization, public-private partnership, asset monetization, land monetization and National Monetization Pipeline (NMP)

On the other hand privatisation is against the interests of the lakhs of workers in government and public sector enterprises. It is also against the interests of the crores of people in our country who have to pay higher prices for privatised goods and services. It will result in handing over natural resources of our country as well as assets built with people’s money and labour to capitalists.

Various organizations of workers from different sectors have been fighting against the privatization agenda from the very beginning. They have managed to halt privatisation in several cases, particularly where they have educated the consumers and users and mobilised them to join their struggle.

Today a very welcome unity against privatisation is being developed in the country across sectors, cutting across union, party and ideological affiliations.

We, who have gathered here today in Pune on Sunday, 12th June 2022 in Patrakar Bhavan, resolve to contribute to this unity by further developing our struggle in Pune.

To do this we will expand our reach to other organizations who would like to join us in our struggle.

We will make workers of one sector aware of the harmful impact of privatisation of other sectors.

We will jointly organise awareness campaigns among citizens to involve them in this struggle.

We will hold discussions, meetings, workshops and demonstrations to oppose privatisation.

We will continue to wage an uncompromising struggle against the privatization of public assets which have been built with our money, our blood and sweat and do whatever it takes to defeat the sinister designs of the ruling class.

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