When a private sector is in doldrums, government will come to its rescue but when the public sector is under doldrums government is going to sell it. This is a reality. This reality has to be taken to the people. If the entire trade union movement along with the farmers’ movement in this country go together and take this issue to the people, we can definitely compel the government to change the policy and to save our nation and our economy.
Transcript of the speech given by Shri C.J. Nandakumar, President of bank Employees Federation of India (BEFI) at the AIFAP meeting – Unite Against Privatisation – “Current Ongoing National Struggles to Oppose the Privatisation of Banks, Insurance and Coal Mines” held on 19th December 2021
I extend my sincere congratulations and thanks to AIFAP and its team for organising such a wonderful platform of fighters and the theme they have given is “Unite against Privatisation”. Since with reference to struggles against privatisation of public sector banks, we have already heard our senior comrade C H Venkatachalam, I am not repeating any of the issues relating to the banking industry. In my presentation I will confine to the future path of the struggle.
Actually, the glorious victory of the farmers’ movement has given us enough energy, hope and expectation. That is why the question is being raised that after this 2-days of successful strike by the United Forum of Bank Unions. Actually, it is not only two days strike on this particular issue against privatisation of public sector banks, the UFBU had already done a two-day strike in the month of March. The very same year this is the fourth strike that the Bank employees have held. Naturally because of the kind of impact it has created throughout the country, never before has the movement of bank employees have got such a wonderful support, not only from the inside the country but from the World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU) also.
Because of that, a question is being raised, whether the bank employees’ fight against privatisation, will be like the farmers’ movement. That’s a very pertinent question. But uniting all against privatisation is not an easy task but not an impossible task also. Why is it not an easy task? Because the government through its powerful media, through its arm of campaign, they are carrying out all types of malicious campaign, misinformation campaign against the public sector. As per the latest report of the Bureau of Public Sector Enterprises, a total of 256 Central Public Sector Enterprises (CPSEs) in this country have earned the profit of more than 94 thousand crore in the year of 2019-20. But the talk is about the lack of professionalism, inefficiency, etc. in the public sector. Through sustained campaign, a prejudice is already being created in the minds of the general public that the public sector enterprises are white elephant. But actually what is the reality?
Just one week before we read the news about the Reserve Bank of India superseding the Board of Reliance Capital of Anil Ambani. Actually this is the second bankruptcy he is facing. Last year it was Reliance Communication. The irony is that the money owed by Reliance Communication to the financial institutions of this country has been totally written off. But the very same Reliance Communication had a debt to a Chinese bank and that Chinese bank put a case against him and obtained an award from a London Court and that was executed through the Supreme Court of India. When Anil Ambani refused to remit the money to the Chinese bank, the Supreme Court gave an ultimatum that, if you do not remit the money within a stipulated time, you will be put in jail. Immediately his brother, Mukesh Ambani paid the money and saved Anil Ambani.
Why am I referring to this? Just two days before there was a statement by the first chairman of SEBI, Dr M Damodaran that if the government is ready to punish the wilful defaulters, definitely the money will come back to the banks. On the one side the government is propagating that we cannot utilise the people’s money for the sustenance of the public sector. Air India is creating losses, that is why we are selling it, they say. But what about Bharat Petroleum Corporation (BPCL)? BPCL is earning daily profit of 17 crore rupees and it is now being put for sale.
So now it has become an issue of ideology. The Government at the centre is totally against the public sector. That has been made very clear by none other than the Prime Minister. The PM himself has made a statement that public sector is going to death. But the people of this country understand the service the public sector has done to the economy of this country. It is not only the commercial profits that are to be taken into account, but more than that the social profits that are being created by the public sector institutions of this country.
Now the UP elections are approaching, we are hearing continuous campaigns from the ruling class at this stage. A few days back there was a statement from our Home Minister Mr Amit Shah, about the service to the OBC by his party. I don’t know after privatisation of all the public sector institutions in this country, where will they protect the social justice. The Constitution has mandated reservation for socially backward classes, scheduled class, scheduled tribes, OBC. While making so many laws in the Parliament, whether the BJP government will enact a law mandating reservation in the private sector? This is a challenge before this government that the people of this country have to put. But unfortunately, as we know, they are doing service to their cronies and only lip service to the common people of this country.
As rightly pointed out by my previous speakers, the so-called neo-liberal policy that is going on in this country, is not a very well thought policy for our own people. It is an imported policy. If we take the Narsimhan Commitee Report, M Narsimhan has done nothing, contributed nothing to the report. Narsimhan Commitee Report, including its spelling mistakes was the World Bank Report as to how the Indian banking sector should be.
The finance capitalists are facing crisis; even the propagandists of finance capitalists, the spokespersons of neo-liberalism have started coming up with different narratives. In 2020, at the World Economic Forum, there was a discussion by the big multi-national corporations. The inequality is rising like anything, the environmental issue, the poverty is increasing. The Millennium Development Goals put forward by the United Nations for 2015 could not be achieved. Again it is extended to 2030. But what we are seeing is, unemployment is rising, poverty is rising. the entire global capitalist system is facing crisis. They are exploiting the developing countries. They are exploiting the natural resources, the man-power and all the resources of the developing countries. That is the reality.
So if you want to have a logical conclusion to our struggle against privatisation, it should be developed into a larger struggle of the people. That was the victory of the farmers’ movement. When the farmers they were beginning their strike, there were questions to them. The government was telling that the Farm Bills are for the benefit of the farmers then why are you going against them? Then farmers made a statement: we may be illiterate but we are not fools. We are watching what is going on in this country for the last three decades.
Every policy, when this neo-liberal policy was opened in this country by Dr Manmohan Singh, it is on records stated by him, please tighten your belt for 5 years and all our problems will be over. What are we facing? Whether our economy is moving in the right direction? What is the latest statement by the Reserve Bank Governor? Whether there is real recovery in the economy? The Reserve Bank Governor himself had stated that there is lack of private investment, there is lack of private consumption. The government is talking about ease of doing business, but is there any investment by the private sector? The private sector will not invest when the economy is in doldrums. So there is thinking going on in the capitalist centres itself. The time has come that they have to shift from shareholder capitalism to stakeholder capitalism.
But unfortunately our country is still following the shareholder capitalism. Their interest only is to increase the wealth of private capital. They are shutting their eyes towards malpractices. What is going on in the name of professionalism, in the name of corporate governance in the private sector, I need not elaborate. A new generation bank, YES Bank, which came into existence in 2000, now that is being given life support by largest public sector bank of this country, the State Bank of India (SBI). Why should the SBI give support to one of its competitors is another question? When a private sector is in doldrums, government will come to its rescue but when the public sector is under doldrums government is going to sell it. This is a reality. This reality has to be taken to the people. If the entire trade union movement along with the farmers’ movement in this country go together and take this issue to the people, we can definitely compel the government to change the policy and to save our nation and our economy. Thank you Comrade.