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Sunday, April 3, 2011

Govt Employees Protest PFRDA Bill:

                THROUGH a statement issued from Kolkata on March 25, by its senior vice chairman Sukomal Sen, the All India State Government Employees’ Federation (AISGEF) has informed that on the day the federation organised in all the states of the country, right from Kashmir to Kerala, two-hour walkouts and demonstrations to condemn the introduction of Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority (PFRDA) bill and demand its withdrawal. Effigies of the bill were also burnt in some states.
            The All India State Government Employees Federation and the Confederation of Central Government Employees had jointly called for these protest actions.
            One recalls that on March 24 this year, the UPA government at the centre introduced the PFRDA bill with the support of main opposition party, the BJP, ignoring the strong protest registered by the Left parties. It was immediately after knowing about it that the state and central government employees launched the aforementioned two- hour walkout from their offices and conducted powerful demonstrations in front of their offices, condemning the anti-employee attitude of the UPA government and demanding immediate withdrawal of the bill.
            It is reported that state government employees organised the programme with success in Tripura, Assam, West Bengal, Bihar, Orissa, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Punjab, Maharashtra, Kerala, Tamilnadu, Andhra Pradesh and Rajasthan. Employees in Kerala, Tripura and West Bengal organised massive walkouts and demonstrations.
            In Haryana, where the Sarva Karamchari Sangh had lent its support to the call for protest actions, about 20,000 employees belonging to the electricity corporation, municipalities and municipal corporations, teachers, irrigation, education, health, public health, urban development, forest department participated in such walkouts and demonstrations at 180 places of 21 districts of the state.
            For this protest, the Sarva Karmachari Sangh leaders had toured through whole of the state to mobilise the employees for sustained programmes of action in the days to come. They brought out the pernicious impact of the bill on the existing pensionary benefits of the government employees and also exposed the real character of the BJP in detail. 
            During the campaign on this programme in all the states, AISGEF leaders and activists explained the political aspect of this issue. They convincingly placed before the employees the difference between the UPA-I government which, standing on the support of 61 Left MPs, was unable to commit any such mischief while the UPA-II government, taking the advantage of the weak position of the Left in parliament, desperately steamrolling all the harmful and anti-employee bill like the Banking Regulation (Amendment) Bill and the PFRDA bill, while the next to follow is more FDI in insurance industry.
            The AISGEF’s contention is that it is due to the pressure exerted by the World Bank, IMF and finance capital in and out the country that the successive governments at the centre, headed by the NDA and the UPA, were trying to privatise the pension funds by placing it at the disposal of private fund managers and thereby paving way for investment of the astronomical pension fund amount in share market speculations. Despite the fact that international experience has proved the privatisation of pension as being beneficial neither to the employees nor to governments, such shameless attempts are being pursued continuously in the interest of private entrepreneurs.
            Right from the early days of 2005, when the bill was first introduced in the parliament, MPs belonging to the Left parties in and the working class all over the country have been relentlessly fighting against the blatant attempts of the governments and that is why the bill could not be passed in the parliament. Yet the central government and many state governments are implementing the new pension scheme through administrative orders, without the sanction of parliament. Only the Left ruled the states, viz, West Bengal, Tripura and Kerala, have declared that they will not implement the new pension scheme for their employees.
            The All India State Government Employees’ Federation and the Confederation of the Central Government Employees and Workers have decided to further intensify the struggle through direct the entire government employees and teachers in this country, numbering more than 80 lakhs, for withdrawal of the PFRDA bill and restoration of the existing Defined Benefit Pension Scheme to all the employees and teachers irrespective of their recruitment into the service. The AISGEF leaders have also urged the employees to get prepared for a prolonged and militant struggle so as to upturn the government’s anti-working class decision. They said the political balance has to be immediately changed to save the country’s interest.
            On the same day, March 25, the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) expressed its strongly opposition to the introduction of the PFRDA Bill in parliament a day before. The CITU said the bill was part of the government’s neo-liberal pro-corporate agenda to change the concept of pension as “defined benefit” to the workers after retirement to a “defined contribution” by the workers. This makes a mockery of pension as a social security scheme, with the onus of funding and regulation of the scheme shifting from the government or employer to a regulator. The main objective is to divert the pension contribution by the workers to the share market and corporate equity funds.
            This bill, initiated during the NDA regime, could not be pushed through because of the opposition by the working class outside the parliament and by the Left parties in the parliament. But the CITU is of the opinion that in a surreptitious manner the UPA government of the Congress party and its allies has kept the avenues open to the regulator for unlimited foreign investment in pension fund without requiring the parliament’s assent. This shows how the present government is in connivance with the major opposition party, the BJP, in surrendering to the pressure of the international finance capital.
            The CITU has also strongly opposed the introduction of a labour law amendment bill proposing exemption from furnishing returns and maintaining registers by certain establishments. The bill, if passed, would exempt more than 80 per cent of existing establishments in the country, to ignore virtually all labour laws of the land, as they would not be required to maintain any records of workers working within their establishments. The CITU, along with other central trade union organisations, has been opposing this so called ‘labour reform’ bill which will usher a jungle law in the industry.
            The CITU has calls upon the working class to intensify their ongoing struggle against the above legislations, so that the corporate captive government is forced to withdraw the above bills from the parliament.
Source: People’s Democracy, Vol. XXXV, No. 14,  April 3, 2011

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