Three Decades valiant Struggles against privatisation of Telecom /BSNL – 1
(A note on the sustained struggles organised by the Unions in Department of Telecom and later in BSNL, against corporatisation, privatisation and closure of the govt. telecom services since 1991, when the New Economic Policy of Liberalisation, Privatisation, Globalisation (LPG) started being implemented in India. This will be serially published).
Telecom is one of the most important infrastructure and service which helps to speed up development and growth of any country. During the last century, technological advances have been fantastic and telecom sector was no exception. In fact, the changes in telecom sector were beyond comparison.
At the time of Independence in India in 1947, there were only about 80,000 or so. India was far behind the developed countries. By 1980s, India was catching up, due to introduction of new technologies and expansion programmes. Magneto, Central Battery, Automatic etc. systems changed for electronic exchanges. Underground cables were laid all over the country. Number of employees rose to about 4.5 lakhs. The telecom revolution was going to start.
The combined Postal and Telegraphs Department was bifurcated in to Departments of Posts and Telecom. Telecom Commission was formed subsequently with more powers. Telecom became a highly profitable sector, with introduction of newer and newer technologies. Vast expansion was expected.
The collapse of USSR and consequent weakening of Socialist system changed the entire world scenario. Capitalist countries, with USA at the head, started dictating terms and conditions for other countries to follow. The trimurtis – International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank (WB) and World Trade Organisation (WTO)- worked as effective tools for the implementation of the new capitalist order.
Discarding its earlier motto of, ‘Socialist Pattern of Society’, the ruling Congress party had already shifted to the neo-liberalisation policy of Liberalisation, Privatisation and Globalisation (LPG). Massive Indian markets were opened for the MNCs to enter and garner huge profits. The greedy eyes of the MNCs have already focussed on Telecom, which was fully under the central government.
Athreya Committee Report -1991
The Athreya Committee, which was appointed to study the restructure of Department of Telecom, submitted its majority report in 1991, recommending corporatisation of telecom services as also privatisation. There was strong protest and outcry from the telecom workers and their unions. They very well understood that corporation / privatisation will be not only bad for the workers, but bad for the entire country. The entire telecom workers went on a successful One Day Token All India Strike on 31 December 1993 against the recommendations for corporatisation and privatisation. The government was compelled to shelve the proposal for corporatisation and privatisation for the time being. This was a big victory for the struggling workers.
(Will be continued).