by Riya S, Purogami Mahila Sagathan (PMS)
The demands for filling vacancies, stopping contractualisation, and regularising contract workers have been taken up time and again by workers of all public sectors. In June 2022, BSNL employees unions held a demonstration in New Delhi to demand the restoration of 79,000 abolished posts. In the same month, various organisations in West Bengal held protests against the abolition of 80,000 posts in railways. Recently, West Bengal municipal workers organised protests for the filling of vacancies and other demands. Teachers in Tamil Nadu and pourakarmikas and sanitation workers in Karnataka are opposing contractualisation of jobs. Youth have taken to the streets several times to demand regular employment in the public sector.
When vacant positions are not filled, the existing employees are overworked. Naturally, the quality of service deteriorates. The government then blames the poor service on public sector workers and pushes for privatisation. This is most evident in education and healthcare sectors, where vacancies have been unfilled, services have been worsened on purpose, and private institutions have been promoted!
In May 2022, station masters in India announced a strike for fulfilling their long-pending demands, one of which was the filling of vacancies. In a meeting organised by AIFAP, unions of railway (AILRSA), electricity (AIPEF), banks (BEFI) and state government employees (AISGEF) supported the strike announced by AISMA and discussed the need for filling vacancies in central/state government undertakings and public sector undertakings.
In the meeting, Com. Shailendra Dubey (AIPEF) mentioned that the power sector in Uttar Pradesh has 66,000 outsourced employees—nearly the double the number of the 35,000 regular employees! Shri C J Nandkumar (BEFI) informed us that most subordinate cadres in the banking sector are being outsourced and there has been virtually no permanent recruitment in the last few years. A presentation by Kamgar Ekta Committee at this meeting revealed that 22% government posts are vacant according to data provided in the Lok Sabha in 2021. The strength of the Indian Railways workers has been reduced by 26% in the last 28 years, and over 70,000 posts have been abolished. In Maharashtra, 40% posts in the power sector remain vacant.
The government has no plan to fill up these vacancies because capitalists want a reduced permanent workforce before privatisation! The huge number of vacancies is an attack on the working class, especially the unemployed youth.
The services provided by workers of railways, electricity, banks, coal, defence, education, healthcare and other public sectors are necessary for the daily lives of crores of Indians and the daily running of the country. The government is weakening these sectors to enable privatisation. We should continue to demand that the public sector is strengthened. We must fight unitedly for our common demands of filling all vacancies and stopping employment on contract basis!