As a newspaper and organisation that is partisan to the workers and toilers, we have been asking the leaders of the working people as to how the toilers of India view the reforms that were started 20 years ago. Whether the working class and people have benefitted from these reforms or have suffered? In the 16-31 October issue, we had begun this series with an interview of the General Secretary of the Communist Ghadar party of India, Comrade Lal Singh. In the last issue we had published the interviews with the leaders of the unions of the banking and port sectors and of the loco pilots. In this issue we are publishing the interviews with the leaders of the workers in some other sectors.
Com M.S. Upadhaya: Chairman, General Insurance Employees All India Association (GIEAIA)
The new economic policies introduced since 1991 have benefitted the capitalist houses. The working class and toiling masses have suffered. The toiling masses are suffering the effects of economic reforms. The price rise is not being controlled. There is increasing unemployment and within industries there is outsourcing. In the name of cutting costs, workers are being attacked.
The government says that the GDP is increasing. But this cannot be the barometer of the economy. The GPD is an estimate of the production of wealth. But it does not indicate how the wealth is distributed. Wealth is increasing. But the lion’s share of wealth is going to the capitalists. More than 80% of the wealth generated is grabbed by 20% of the population and the rest 20% of the wealth is distributed among the remaining 80% of the population.
The per capita income calculated by the Government is an average. The average does not give the true figure of society. If the economy was really growing, then poverty would have reduced. The Prime Minster Manmohan Singh said that the prices are rising because people are eating more since they have more money in their hands due to Government schemes such as NREGA! This is ridiculous.
As far as the economic policies are concerned, both ruling and opposition parties come together. For example when the Insurance Amendment Act was passed in 2002, both ruling BJP and opposition Congress supported it. Before this Act, the General Insurance Corporation (GIC) had 4 subsidiary companies under it, namely, National Insurance Company (NIC), Oriental Insurance Company (OIC), New India Insurance Company (NIIC) and United India Insurance Company (UIIC) .
As per the Insurance Amendment Act, 2002, all the 4 subsidiary companies of GIC have been separated and there are now 5 independent companies. GIC’s role has been limited to reinsurance. This has resulted in competition between these companies and they are unable to concentrate and fight the private insurance companies. The collective financial strength of the public sector companies have been reduced. A few years back, two of these companies, NIC and OIC, were on the verge of insolvency. But due to the hard work of the employees, we have managed to pull back these companies from the red.
Our Union’s demand is to make one corporation by merging all the 5 companies.
Before the demerger took place, S.N.P. Moody had given GIC a rating of 6 out of 8 which is an extremely high rating. But now after demerger, the situation is different. They want to create a scenario wherein you “Call a dog a mad dog and then shoot it”. The Indian capitalists do not want to put their own money in insurance business. So they are welcoming foreign insurance companies and in partnership with them they are entering the insurance business.
It is necessary for the working class to think of an alternative economic policy. In 2007, in the Parliament Hall itself, a seminar was organized by GIEAIA and AITUC on “Alternate Budget”. We will support initiatives in this direction.
Com Deven Yadav, Convenor, Joint Action Committee, Western and Central Railway Motormen's Association
The new economic policy has benefitted the industrialists as well as the Government. It has introduced contract labour in public and private enterprises on a large scale.
For example in the railways, the cleaning is done by contractors. A large number of posts belonging to Class III and Class IV have been surrendered. However the officer's posts have been increased.
The Government says the GDP is increasing. But the actual fact is that poverty is increasing. In 1947, the number of people living below the poverty line was less than today. So what is the use of this increase in GDP? The rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. The rich are getting richer because they have power. They are the real rulers of India. There is no socialism in India; on the contrary there are great inequalities.
In the recent budget why were the big industrial houses given Rs 1,75,000 crores tax waivers? The rich are being given tax waivers while the taxes on the working people are being increased. So many scams are being exposed. For example 2G Scam, Commonwealth scam etc. But why are recoveries not taking place? These industrialists and political leaders who commit such large scale economic crimes should be hanged in public. Then it will be a lesson to others too.
What should be done?
We should stop privatization. The public sector should be expanded. All the big industries should be nationalized. They should be under the control of public.
Comrade Chalke, Maharashtra Circle Secretary, National Federation of Postal Employees
The new economic policies introduced by Manmohan Singh in 1991 have been disastrous for the working class. We have been put back a 100 years. There has been absolutely no benefit for the working class. On the contrary there have been huge losses. For example the Government announced in 2004 that all new recruits in the postal department will not be getting the benefit of pension.
Manmohan Singh left his job in the World Bank and became the Finance Minster in 1991. The United States as well as the Indian big capitalists made him the Finance Minster. His policies have helped them.
In India there are millions of people who want work. If you have too much computerization, then what will these people do? Unemployment has increased 25 to 30 times. The policies should be framed for the benefit of the working people.
In India, the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. The differences are increasing not decreasing. Crime is increasing. Our women cannot go out safely on the roads. To divert attention they organize riots. In the last 20 years so many riots have taken place.
Today the electricity, telephone and gas bill my family has to pay itself comes to Rs 4,000. For education of our children we have to spend so much more money.
The Government claims there is 8% growth in GDP. But the Indian people do not go by figures. They go by “dil”. If the “dil” is broken, how can the government say there is progress. People have lost faith in the system. The government is working for only 2% of the people. Such a government should be thrown out. We should put forward worker candidates during elections. We must take power in our hands.
Shri.Rajan Raje, leader of many Unions in Thane District
MEL : Firstly tell us briefly about your Union activities.
Shri. Raje : We have our unions in about 70 to 80 companies in Thane district , Roha , Pune, Taloja, Kalyan, Badlapur , Ambarnath etc. Some companies have less than 10 employees while some have 400 to 450 employees.
MEL : How are your unions different from many other unions lead by some big names?
Shri. Raje : Firstly they are not ‘my’ unions. In all these enterprises each union is an internal union with an elected committee. My sathi Shri. Vikrant Karnikji and I are Working President and President in all these unions. However the work of each union committee is conducted in a democratic manner. Our aim is to develop micro leadership from amongst them. The activities of these unions are conducted to ensure such development. Our committee members always accompany us while dealing with various authorities including police and maliks. This has yielded good result and we are happy that now a large number of our committee members confidently face police, malik and also various authorities without fear. They also address their gate meetings.
MEL : How have the Liberalisation and Privatisation policies impacted the working people in your opinion ?
Shri. Raje : Without doubt I can say that working people have been very adversely affected by these policies. While all the concessions were given to the capitalists, social security measures to protect the livelihood of working people were not taken at all. Outsourcing and contract worker system has been made easier. There has been a huge increase in the number of contract workers. In factories and establishments, the number of permanent workers has reduced to 100’s and less than 100 down from 1000’s or 100’s. And now it has become very easy to legally close down an establishment with less than 100 permanent workers. “Bade Chat ki jagah par bas chota sa chata rah gaya”.“ Rojgar nahi bas Rojmar bach gaya”. The plight of contract workers has really worsened since the launch of liberalization – privatization policies. Untouchability is rampant in the form of contract workers. Just like “untouchables”, the contract workers do not get many facilities which permanent workers get. Similarly even their eating places are different just like it used to be for untouchables! In most places the company vehicles are not allowed for contract workers . Even the toilets, drinking water facility, change room facilities for them are separate! Is this not untouchability ?
MEL : What do you think has happened to level of exploitation since the liberalization-privatization policies were launched?
Shri. Raje : In many countries where contract workers are allowed since the work is of seasonal nature , the contract workers are paid many times more than the permanent workers. But in India the contract workers are paid much less and that too for work of permanent round the year nature. In last 20 years a large number of permanent workers were forced to take VRS and replaced by very lowly paid contract workers. Due to modern technology surplus value generated by human labour has increased. So this should have actually resulted in reduction of working hours with a simultaneous increase of real wages for working people. But in fact the reverse has happened. So even the small industrialists profits have gone up exponentially in last 20 years. Thus it is very clear that level of exploitation has tremendously increased.The supporters of liberalization – privatization say that “Let property and wealth get created first and then the Ganga will trickle down to everybody”. In reality what has happened is immense wealth has been created but the Ganga has by-passed the working people.
MEL : What has been your experience with the judiciary & bureaucracy in last 20 years?
Shri. Raje : Yes of course, there has been change, adverse to the interests of working class! For contract system legalization huge bribes have been paid. It is being said in the media that the properties of Supreme Court and High Court judges have increased manifold. Labour Laws are being interpreted by various courts in such a way that it benefits the capitalist owners. It has become even more difficult for the working people to wage legal struggles. Contract Work Abolition and Regulation Act has in fact been used to legalize contract work system. It has become virtually impossible now for contract workers to prove that they have been working for an enterprise for very long periods. In many places in Maharashtra, kith and kin of various political leaders of all the big political parties so also kith and kin of Ministers are themselves very big labour contractors. Bureaucracy was always anti worker and was never helpful. But now it has become very aggressive. Many big bureaucrats are filthy rich. How have they amassed so much wealth? Labour welfare boards & labour departments have no powers to rein in the capitalist owners but have all the powers to prevent workers from agitation. They only act as chains to tire the workers. Kamgar mantri time and again proves that he is actually Malik mantri.
MEL : Is the experience similar with Police?
Shri. Raje : All oppressive systems like Czar or French Rajeshahi used the coercive machinery to suppress any revolt against them; likewise in India. Police and even the military has been given free rein to attack working people. Now we find that 144 is applied very arbitrarily and in many places in Maharashtra it is in force round the year! In the past hired goons were used to break the worker’s struggles. But now what we are experiencing is that police are openly participating in this activity.
MEL : What do you think working class should do now that the next wave of reforms are being spoken about?
Shri. Raje : Firstly we must expose the truth about ill effects of liberalization & privatization policies. We should oppose these policies uncompromisingly. Workers can rely only on their unity not on big leaders of big political parties. We need to be vigilant and use every possible legal means like RTI act and whatever rights still exist to wage our struggles. We must fight for increasing minimum monthly wages for permanent workers to Rs.15000 per month and for temporary and contract workers the minimum daily wage should be Rs.1000 i.e. double of that of a permanent worker. We must also fight for a very strict law about maintaining daily records of every employee in smallest to biggest enterprise. We must fight for a law which will make non maintenance of such records or concealing such records as a non-bailable offense with a minimum punishment of 6 months rigorous imprisonment of the malik. We must also demand all salary payments strictly by cheque along-with the presenty data.
Com N. S. Talekar, General Secretary, Central Railway Motormen’s Association
The new economic policies have resulted in increased privatization. For example in Railways, the ticketing services are sought to be outsourced. Three months ago, they introduced JTBS (Janata Ticketing and Booking Service) to be run by private agencies. The railway staff who were previously doing this work will be removed in phases. The Ticket checking staff will also be removed and given to private agencies. Already, in VT station the ticketing is carried out by these agencies. The entire cleaning of railway stations as well as the car sheds has been given to private contractors. This has been introduced in all the four metros and is to be followed by other stations.
The maintenance of the new Siemens rakes brought by Central Railway, is being done by Siemens itself. Previously it was being done by Railway staff. On the Central Railway, 85 rakes out of 142 are Siemens rakes in the suburban services of Mumbai.
The government says there is an 8% growth in GDP. But where is the growth in employment? Can a worker afford to live in Mumbai? Can he buy a house in Mumbai? A motorman who is earning Rs 50,000 to Rs 60,000 per month has to struggle just to eat and live. What will be the condition of the workers who are earning Rs 6,000 per month?
The prices of all necessities of life are increasing rapidly. Today we earn a salary of Rs 50,000 to Rs 60,000. In 1996 we were earning Rs 4,000 per month, but the increase in salary has not improved our conditions due to the price rise taking place. The value of money has reduced. We workers cannot save anything. A house in Mumbai costs Rs 60 lakhs, which previously was costing less than Rs 10 lakhs. We are being forced to switch over to the western style wherein you earn for 7 days and spend everything in 7 days.
The working class has no security of employment. The capitalist class can do whatever it wants. A few companies like Reliance and Birla’s are ruling India.
In the rural areas, the rich peasants corner most of the government schemes. For example they get the benefit of loans from public sector banks. The poor farmers do not get this and have to turn to money lenders. The cooperative sugar factories in Maharashtra are in bad shape. They are controlled by political leaders who are milking these and turning them sick. They avail of loans and divert the funds.
Corruption should be controlled. In Malaysia after the anti corruption act was passed, 125 ministers were caught along with 4,200 government officers. If corruption can be controlled, then black money can be controlled.
The working class must unite.