Shri Girish Bhave, Joint Secretary, Kamgar Ekta Committee (KEC)
After implementing the 1991 policy of globalisation through privatisation and liberalisation, every government that came to power has worked towards ending the existence of the public sector. The government of each party that won using the money power of the capitalists has come up with all kinds of excuses to sell public sector companies and establishments to private owners at negligible prices.
In the decade of 1991, gradual steps were taken in a very planned manner to sway public opinion towards privatisation. At the behest of the capitalists, the government first said that public sector companies would be divided into strategic and non-strategic companies, and then, only non-strategic public sector companies that did not make profit would be handed over to private hands.
This led to a competition among public sector companies to constantly make profit. Unions working in public sector companies have repeatedly mentioned about the anti-people measures taken to show profits. But today, we have to ask: should the purpose of public sector really be to make profit?
Today, public companies like railways, electricity, road transport, telecommunications, banking and insurance are spread to every corner of the country. They are providing services to villages and remote areas. Providing service in these places is not easy. Providing these services in spite of facing a lot of difficulties actually results in losses. If these services are privatised, then such services will be provided only in urban areas. The aim of any private owner is to earn maximum profit. No private owner would like to incur losses to provide service in remote areas.
There is a belief in our country for centuries that whoever rules should give priority to ensuring the happiness and security of the subjects, which is another important issue. If the ruler does not fulfil this responsibility, then the right and responsibility to remove him from his position rests with the people. The government has the right to collect tax from us because it provides basic essential services like electricity, railways, telecommunications, banking and insurance at reasonable prices. These sectors should be seen as services, not a means of earning profits.
As employees, we should not look at how much profit these public services make. Instead, we should understand how essential these services are to the public. How many people have these services reached? It is also necessary to understand how many people will be deprived of these services if they are privatised. For example, during the pandemic, patients with COVID were being admitted to government hospitals or non-government hospitals only. Big private hospitals had abandoned the people. There are times when there is a need to airlift people stranded in floods or war zones; no private airlines come forward to help in such times. This shows the importance of basic services being in the public sector.
We have to remember that this entire public sector has been built using our money. We pay tax on whatever we buy in the market. Even a poor hardworking person who survives only on vada pav is paying tax in the form of GST. It is only with this tax money that the public sector has been created. Therefore, it is the wealth of all of us. The assets that have been created using our blood and sweat are being sold by the government to private owners at negligible prices. We always want the wealth created using public money to be used for the welfare of the people and not to fill the coffers of a handful of capitalists.
That is why we should never get into a debate about how much profit our public service makes. We have to discuss how important this service is for our countrymen. We have to examine every argument given in favour of privatisation. We have to explain this to our friends and our consumers. Bank employees and electricity employees are taking steps to engage consumers in the anti-privatisation struggle. Employees of other sectors should also work in this direction!