Worker's Opposition Gaining Momentum
Lakhs of insurance employees have been waging struggle over the past two months against the introduction of the Insurance privatisation bill in parliament. On December 1, a country-wide strike was observed. Earlier on November 29, massive rallies and dharnas were staged in Delhi as well as all the state capitals. On October 30th, 2 lakh insurance sector employees staged a nation-wide strike to oppose opening up of the insurance sector to the plunder of private and foreign capital. Earlier a petition on behalf of the 1.5 crore insurance employees had been placed in Parliament.
The ruling class is particularly desperate to get this Bill passed because, firstly it would open up a whole new lucrative sector to the Indian and foreign big finance capital. The present size of the Indian insurance and pension funds market is Rs. 40,000 crores, but research studies have predicted that it has a potential of Rs. 70,000 crores. Secondly, the Bill is supposed to signal to capitalists around the world that the Indian bourgeoisie has now installed a "stable" government at the centre and that it will be speeding up the reforms - a demand that was placed as a precondition for any party to be elected to power in the recent elections.
The Bill, if passed, will open up the insurance sector to private capital investment with up to 26 percent ownership by foreign multinationals. It would further strengthen the stranglehold of Indian and foreign big finance capital over the economy. The bourgeoisie has been recently hardselling the bogus arguments that privatising this sector would expand the insurance sector to reach every corner of the country, bring more efficiency, increase employment and bring in more foreign capital. None of these pretexts have found any takers among the working class. The entire experience of privatisation has proved time and again that it is the bourgeoisie that has gained enormously at the expense of the working people. Each and every privatisation and liberalisation measure so far - such as the opening up of the banking sector, the privatisation of several public sector units and the entry of foreign capital into the agri industry - has further deprived people of their livelihood, widened the cleavage between the rich and the poor, and increased the threat to national sovereignty.
The struggle of the insurance workers, following on the heels of the truckers strike which caused sleepless nights for the bourgeoisie, are powerful manifestations of growing opposition to their anti-people policies. The working people have to utilise the momentum gained in these struggles to repair the fracture in the movement. They need to put forward the coherent vision of an alternative economic orientation that puts the fulfillment of the needs and aspirations of India's toiling masses at centre stage, and fight for measures that will eliminate the scourge of poverty from the face of India. They must put forward the vision of thorough going democratic renewal to ensure that India belongs to its real masters, the workers and peasants, the women and youth.