The collapse of the Soviet Union (USSR) in the 1980s changed the equation of world economy and also power balance. Capitalist countries, with United States of America (USA) at the head, got the upper hand. Not only the economically developed European states, but many developing countries like India, also changed their policies and turned over to capitalist line more and more. They forgot the help received from the socialist state and started implementing the neo-liberal policy. Though Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi had started the process in a mild way, it was under the Narasimha Rao Government in 1991 that the full process started. The Finance Minister was Dr. Manmohan Singh, the celebrated capitalist economist who later became Prime Minister. It was the workers and the common people who had to suffer the miseries consequent to the implementation of the neo-liberal policy. Helping the corporates – Indian and foreign, to take over the Public Sector Units, destroy the PSUs as such, privatisation – all these were made important targets of the government.
All India Trade Union Convention
There was strong reaction from the working class against the neo-liberalisation programmes, which attacked their livelihood and trade union rights. They organised struggles and agitations. The All India Trade Union Convention which was held at New Delhi on 17th September 1991, strongly protested against the anti- worker economic policies being adopted by the central government. The convention pointed out that taking loans from International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank has aggravated the situation by putting the country in to heavy debt. More and more taxes are imposed on the people at the dictates of the WB and IMF, tools of world capitalism. Unemployment is increasing day by day. Many companies have been closed down. The convention called upon the working class to prepare for sustained struggle to change the situation. It decided to organise a nation wide Strike on 29th November 1991 against the anti-worker neo-liberal policies.
All India Convention of CG Employees.
The Convention held at Azad Bhawan, New Delhi on 10 November 1991 was presided over by Comrades O.P.Bhasin (Confederation), K.Adinarayana (NFPE), S.Jagannathan (NFTE), Ganguli (AIDEF) etc. Comrade S.K.Vyas (Confederation), O.P.Gupta (NFTE), Moni Bose ( Telecom E.III Union), K.K.N.Kutty (ITEF),K.M.Mathew (AIDEF) and others spoke exposing the anti-worker policy of the government, the decision of the central trade unions to go on strike on 19 November 1991 and the need of the central government employees’ participating in the same. After detailed discussion, it was decided to call for strike with the following demands in addition to those included by the central trade unions:
1. Discuss the economic – commercial policies with central trade unions.
2. Stop privatisation of govt. departments; No computerisation without discussion with the workers.
3. Equality of wages with Public Sector employees; 20% increase immediately.
4. Regularisation of ED, Casual workers.
5. No ban on creation of posts. Fill up the vacancies
6. Bonus for all, whose income is less than Rs. 3,500
7. Income tax exemption for those drawing up to Rs. 3,500.
Even after taking decision in the convention for strike, O.P.Gupta continued his vacillating line. He did not take any significant action for organising the strike. However, Telecom Class III Union, Telegraph Traffic class III Union and similar minded unions continued their preparation and organised the strike effectively.
The 29th November 1991 strike was a great success. More than one crore workers participated. It was the first strike against the anti-people neo-liberalisation policy of the central government and the telecom workers were proud that they have wholeheartedly participated in the same along with the working class.
The telecom workers appreciated the vibrant and militant stand of the new leadership, who were elected at the Bhopal AIC and they also understood the difference between the revisionist and progressive lines. The telecom workers can take pride that in each and every general strike that followed, they wholeheartedly participated in them. (To be continued)