Call of the Lok Raj Sangathan, September 28, 2004

Ever since Modern Food Industries Limited (MFIL) was privatised by the Atal Bihari Vajpayee Government in January 2000, the Lok Raj Sangathan has been engaged in elaborating on why privatisation has been against not only the interests of workers, but against the general interests of society as well.

The Modern Food Industries Employees Union has carried out a heroic struggle in these years against great odds, facing the savage attacks of the HLL management, as well as the total complicity of the disinvestment ministry of the former government with the management. 75% of the original work force has lost their jobs. Far from modernising, the HLL management has stripped the plants of assets and has outsourced production to sweat shops in outlying areas on a contract basis. It is resorting to contract labour. It has dismissed the three main leaders of the Union, Shri Govind Singh Yadav, Shri VK Narang and Shri Ganesh Thakur on trumped up charges. It has tried to decimate the fighting unions of workers. However, the workers led by the Union have waged a prolonged struggle on the gate, inside the units, in the courts, through the media. They have addressed numerous memorandums to the Prime Minister, President, and all the concerned ministers and officials on a regular basis informing the authorities of the developments and demanding action from the government.

A committee set up by the former Prime Minister Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee has submitted its report to the present Prime Minister. This Committee, headed by Shri Hasubhai Dave, President of the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS) had three other members-representing the labour ministry, the disinvestment ministry and the employers’ organisations. This Committee was charged with finding out the consequences of privatisation of MFIL and Balco on the workers. The committee has squarely indicted the two private owners of anti-worker practices, and it has confirmed the submissions of the Lok Raj Sangathan, the MFIL employees union as well as the representations of Balco workers. It has confirmed massive assset stripping and closures of units, and indicted the plans of BALCO and MFIL to sell prime land after closing the units. The Committee has confirmed the allegation of Modern Food Industries Employees Union and the Lok Raj Sangathan that the so-called "Voluntary" Retirement Scheme had become a Forced Retirement Scheme. The Committee has also indicted the disinvestment ministry for failing to take care of the interests of the workers.

Lok Raj Sangathan considers this as the appropriate time to force the present government and parliament to reverse the privatisation of MFIL and Balco. The two managements must be made to withdraw all cases against workmen. They must be forced to take back the dismissed and suspended workers. Those workmen who have been thrown out under the Forced Retirement Scheme (VRS) should be given the option to resume their jobs. Action must be initiated against the government officials and ministers who colluded with the private owners of MFIL and BALCO in the anti-worker acts.

This is the time for democratic public opinion, for all trade unions, in India and abroad to extend their solidarity to the fighting workers of MFIL and Balco by organising meetings/actions in different areas.

We call for reversal of privatisation of MFIL and BALCO and any other PSU’s that have been privatised.

We call for a national referendum on privatisation.

We call for immediate discussion in parliament on the Report of the Prime Minister’s Committee on the consequences of privatisation of MFIL and BALCO on the workers and for immediate action in defense of the rights of the workers.

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