A welcome initiative in the fight against privatisation in our country was taken on Sunday, July 4 2021 with the establishment of the All India Forum Against Privatisation (AIFAP). Many fronts, national federations and unions have been battling this monster for long. However the need for a platform cutting across all barriers of sector, political and ideological affiliations was felt by many people involved in the fight. It was also clear from the experience of many struggles that the fight against privatisation can be waged successfully if special attention is made to involve the families of the workers as well as people at large.
Building upon the success of its 13-part series of meetings, “Unite Against Privatisation!” carried over a period of nine months, the leaders and members of Kamgar Ekta Committee approached leaders of various public sector federations and unions, including railways, banks, oil, defence production, electricity, coal, insurance, port and docks, BSNL, steel, etc. and got a very enthusiastic response to the proposal of establishing AIFAP. What is unique to this forum is that it is welcoming people’s organisations and interested individuals also to become its members. We are very happy to report that Lok Raj Sangathan is one of the forty two founding members of the AIFAP.
On July 4, the Secretary of Kamgar Ekta Committee (KEC), Com A Mathew welcomed the leaders and observers and declared that KEC had responded to the suggestion made by many to initiate such a platform and the response was heartening. He briefly described the various activities that the Forum could undertake. The objectives of this platform were spelt out (See the box) and then each of the national leaders present addressed the meeting.
All the leaders thanked the KEC for taking this initiative and expressed their commitment to participate actively in the activities of the Forum. They declared that it was important to unite and involve the masses of people in this fight by explaining to them how privatisation would be very harmful to them. Workers in government and public sector establishments have been working selflessly during the pandemic. Railway production employees produced 721 electric locomotives breaking all past records and with less staff. Their production units have produced 4323 LHB coaches of world standards and way below the cost of similar coaches made abroad. Despite this contracts are being given to big monopolies!
The public sector steel plants supplied oxygen and the railways transported it wherever needed during the pandemic. A continuous supply of electricity was ensured to all hospitals and to people at large. Yet the government is planning to privatise all these sectors.
Several leaders declared that their organisations would fully support the Black Day being observed by Defence Employees on July 8, 2021 to protest against the new draconian ordinance to ban the strikes and agitations of defence employees who are protesting against the splitting up and corporatization of the Ordnance Factory Board. It is evident that if this ordinance is not scrapped, sooner or later all other sectors will be brought under its ambit.
Electricity distribution is also under threat of being privatized. In Chandigarh, the existing state owned power distribution company made a profit of Rs. 365 crores last year. The distribution losses were less than 9% which is even less than many private power distribution companies. Yet they want to hand this over to the Tatas. The Chandigarh power employees got a stay from the High Court but this was vacated by the Supreme Court! This needs to be opposed!
Speakers also spoke about the great harm that the Electricity Amendment Bill 2021 which is planned to be passed into law will pose to workers as well as consumers and declared that they would unitedly oppose it.
Bank unions have unitedly launched a campaign to raise awareness about the harmful effects of bank privatisation. Their slogan is “People’s money for people’s welfare!”
The representative of a national women’s organisation talked about the need to involve women and youth in the campaign against privatisation. Their voices would be crucial and their initiative should be released.
It was gratifying to hear the representative of Lok Media from the United Kingdom give a message of solidarity from the British working class which is facing similar attacks.
There were many spirited interventions from other activists. The plan for the coming month was agreed upon. This included the launching of a website and mobile app as well as issuing support statements to the workers of sectors under attack. Attempts are also going to be made to motivate other organisations and individuals to become members of this Forum.
|Objectives of AIFAP:
Guiding philosophy of AIFAP:
“Attack on one is an attack on all.”
The Forum will function democratically. It will not discriminate on the basis of party or union affiliations, ideologies and beliefs, religion, caste, gender, language, region, age, position, or rank.
The Forum will not permit any divisive, abusive or incendiary writings or proposals.
Membership of AIFAP:
Any organization of workers – unions, associations, federations, organization of people, individual workers (currently working or retired) of India or of Indian origin, other Indian people who agree to the objectives of the Forum and are willing to work towards achieving the objectives, wherever they are based, will be welcome irrespective of religion, caste, gender, region, beliefs and ideology.
Constituents of AIFAP
(as of July 4)
Names of organisations who had agreed to join the Forum before the Foundation Meeting on July 4, 2021 are given below in alphabetical order.
Speech by Sanjeewani Jain, Vice President of Lok Raj Sangathan and representative of LRS in the Foundation Meeting of AIFAP
On behalf of Lok Raj Sangathan, I would like to congratulate Kamgar Ekta Committee and all the other federations, unions, associations and people’s organisations for coming together to establish the All India Forum Against Privatisation, which addresses a vital need of our times.
I have been attending all the meetings and I’m very happy that you have acted upon the popular demand that KEC should take the initiative and form an All India body against privatisation. I’m glad that you have got a very enthusiastic response; leaders of various federations and TUs have broken all barriers of party and other affiliations and come together for a common cause.
I think we all realise that different political parties have come to the power at the centre and state levels, but almost all of them have relentlessly pushed forward this anti-people, anti-national agenda of privatisation. They have done it despite the expressed opposition of crores of our people – workers and even farmers who are fighting so resolutely against the corporate takeover of agriculture. It is very clear now that what prevails today in the name of democracy is not the rule of the people but the rule of the biggest corporate houses.
It is important for us to explain to everyone that government money is money that it has collected from the people by way of taxes, direct and indirect. It is wrong to assume as some do, that only the relatively better off people pay taxes. The poorest of the poor pay taxes whenever they go to buy anything, whether matches or soap or anything else. And these indirect taxes are the lion’s share amounting to about two thirds of the total collection.
Why is the government entitled to collect taxes? Rights and duties should go together. If the government has the right to collect taxes, it has to fulfil its basic duty to ensure people’s welfare and security. This is what has been accepted in our country from ancient times. It went by the name of Raj Dharma or the duty of the Raja towards the praja. The Raja was duty-bound to ensure the sukh and suraksha of the praja.
In modern times, we have rulers in a different form. However, they still collect taxes, and they still have the duty to ensure the well-being of the people. But what do we find? India ranks near the bottom in every index of human welfare – food and nutrition, health, education, women’s rights… the list is endless. Successive governments of various parties have not ensured that basic necessities of the people – roti, kapda, makan, shiksha, swasthya, good roads, transport arrangements, electricity – are provided to them. In fact crores of our people are not assured of a square meal a day.
In the meantime, the whole public sector and various government departments have been built up using tax money as well as through the hard dedicated work of generations of workers. And successive governments are trying their best to hand over these ripe fruits to the hands of greedy multinationals, Indian and foreign!
We can never allow this to happen! Only we the people can stop that. First and foremost, we, who are gathered here today, and others like us who are educated, organised, who feel that every citizen deserves a good life, and whose work is vital to the country.
The government tries its best to create divisions amongst us, based on caste, religion, region, political and union affiliation, gender and so on. But we have risen above that. We have to make others also aware. The government and the mainstream media do all they can to turn us one against the other. They slander us, saying that workers are lazy, teachers don’t teach, doctors are just interested in looting the patients and all such lies. But that isn’t true! Otherwise how is the country surviving?
The more we learn about the workers in different sectors, the more we realise that the vast majority work hard and do not want to be parasites. Those who work in the public sector take pride in that and want to serve the janata of our country. For instance, bank workers have raised a nice slogan – people’s money for people’s welfare. We should support that!
We have to expose all the lies that are deliberately spread. We know that privatisation will badly hurt workers of a given sector or establishment. But it will hurt the users and people at large even more. Workers may number lakhs, but users and consumers are in crores! We have to make people aware of that. Our organisation has being doing that from the beginning. Ever since Modern Foods, the first company that was targeted was being privatised we were with its workers. The fight went on for years.
Just before the pandemic, we waged campaigns in MMR (Mumbai Metropolitan Region) against the privatisation of electricity distribution as well as of railways. We held street corner meetings, organised leaflet distribution, gathered signatures from tens of thousands of people. We found that once we explained to the people, they did support us. At that time certain political parties participated in the campaign. We organised morchas in which thousands of people participated. We could thwart the government’s efforts for about nine months. But as soon as the Vidhan Sabha elections were held, and they became a part of the ruling coalition, they went ahead and implemented the privatisation of electricity distribution. It showed once again how much we can trust these parties.
First and foremost we have to unite in the spirit “An attack on one is an attack on all!” Today we should use every means at our disposal to build our solidarity and explain to the people at large. In the future we should also plan joint actions, on the road and otherwise.
We have a large number of experienced, learned members as well as eager young members who are very keen to take the anti-privatisation movement ahead. We run a website (www.lokraj.org.in), in which we will definitely put up news and reports about this campaign. We have been conducting seminars and workshops for a wide spectrum of people from chawls and bustees to universities and professionals’ associations. Our members are very eager to participate wholeheartedly in this campaign!
Once again I thank you all.
Mazdoor Ekta Zindabad!
Lok Ekta Zindabad!