Report by Kamgar Ekta Committee (KEC) correspondent based on inputs received from Com. Girish S, General Secretary, BEML Employees Association (BEMEA)
The agitation against the Central Government’s move to sell the profit-making public sector enterprise (PSE), Bharat Earth Movers Ltd (BEML) entered the 1,000th day on Thursday, 19 October. A protest programme was organised in front of the Company at Kanjikode in Kerala and 1000 balloons were released on this occasion.
Speakers at the protest said that despite the demands of the workers raised with the state government, people’s representatives and trade unions for the last 2 years and 9 months, the Central Government is going ahead with the sale of BEML to help big corporates. BEML’s assets worth Rs 50,000 crores are being given away for just Rs 1800 crores.
Employees at BEML units at Kanjikode, Kolar, Mysuru, and Bengaluru have been on an agitation since January 6, 2021. The Central Government invited letters of interest for selling the PSE on January 4, 2021.
The Centre has ignored the agitation as well as the repeated pleas by the State government and the MLAs and MPs from Kerala against the decision to privatise the PSE.
BEML employees under the banner of the CITU had sent one lakh memorandums to the President and the Prime Minister seeking their intervention against the privatisation of BEML. Largescale protests were organised involving the public; a human wall was built in protest; a people’s court was held; and several means of protests were organised during the last 1000 days.
BEML functions under the Ministry of Defence and makes several defence equipment and vehicles, including personnel vehicles for the military. Apart from military vehicles, BEML manufactures metro coaches and equipment used in coal industry.
BEML was launched with a capital investment of ₹23.56 crore in 1964. Employees say that it was because of their dedication over the last five decades that BEML’s share value rose from ₹10 to ₹2,300. The company had made a profit of ₹278 crore in 2022-23. BEML wins 85% of its orders by taking part in global tenders.
The employees have been demanding that the Union government withdraw the move to privatise BEML considering the company’s role in the country’s security and defence.
During the last few years, the defence production sector has been opened up for the private sector. Big corporates like Tata, Adani, Mahindra and others see a big potential for growth and profit in the sector which was dominated by PSEs and ordnance factories under the Ministry of Defence. Now big corporates have entered almost every field of defence production and finalised many collaborations and joint ventures with foreign arms and equipment suppliers.
Ordnance factories have been corporatised as a first step towards their privatisation. PSEs are being forced to form consortiums with private companies so that private companies can later take up production on their own.
Big corporates in the country want all the profitable PSEs to be privatised and this is being opposed by workers. The fight against privatisation of BEML is a part of the fight against the anti-worker and anti-people privatisation offensive being carried out by the Central government at the instance of big corporates.