People's Democracy(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
December 30, 2007
21st General Conference Of AIIEA CALL
Broaden The Movement
Against Neo-Liberal Policies
*Extensive campaign to protect the industry
*Building unity of the people against communalism and imperialism
*Preparing for campaign and struggle on wage revision
THE 21st general conference of All India Insurance Employees’ Association (AIIEA), held in the historic city of Kanpur from December 8-12, 2007 called upon the insurance employees to launch extensive campaign to protect the industry and contribute to broaden the movement against the neo-liberal globalisation policies. It called upon the employees to build a strong resistance movement against imperialism and communalism. The conference also decided to launch 'People for India' forums at more centres and activate them on people’s issues at local level.
More than 1600 delegates and observers from every part of the country participated in the conference. The participation of 136 women delegates and observers was a new record. Such massive participation demonstrated the unflinching faith and confidence of the employees in AIIEA and the desire to be a part of its decision making process. The deliberations and decisions arrived at in the conference created a new confidence and massive enthusiasm among employees across the country. It was one of the most successful conference by any standard. It was a conference of confidence.
The proceedings of the conference began with a massive procession in the evening of December 8. All the delegates and observers from across the country, along with the employees of different divisions under North Central Zone, made up a strong contingent of nearly 6000 rallyists. They marched a distance of three kilometers from the Govt Inter College park to the public meeting venue, Phoolbagh. The colourful procession was marked by the presence of hundreds of women in the rally.
The flag of AIIEA was unfurled by its president N M Sundaram amidst thunderous slogans. The historical fact that Kanpur was the epicenter of the First War of Independence in 1857, added a new dimension raising the patriotic feelings of the participants. The venue of the conference was named after Comrade R P Manchanda, former president of AIIEA.
P Sainath, rural affairs editor of The Hindu and Magsaysay award winner for journalism inaugurating the conference presented a brilliant and critical analysis of the path of economic development chosen by the rulers of our country. He showed how this path of capitalist globalisation has widened inequalities in India. While this economic growth has propelled India into 4th position in the world in terms of number of billionaires, a staggering 80 per cent of the population is denied access to even the basic necessities of life. Sainath squarely blamed the government policies for the huge number of peasant suicides and warned that if such inequalities persist and grow, Indian democracy itself would be in danger. He called upon the working class to wage battles at the local level against globalisation and defeat capitalism’s desire to enrich itself at the cost of poverty and hunger of the vast multitude of Indian population.
K Venugopal, general secretary, addressing the inaugural session dealt on the challenges being faced by humanity due to the onslaught of imperialism. He also gave a detailed picture of the situation obtaining in the insurance industry, the conspiracies to dismantle the public sector and the need to intensify the campaign to protect and advance the interests of LIC and the public sector general insurance companies. He demanded that the LIC management should come out with the process of recruitment and a solution to the issue of temporary employees as promised. He cautioned the employees to be in readiness for a campaign and struggle on the issue of the genuine demand for a 40 per cent wage hike.
The inaugural session was also addressed by V A N Namboodiri, general secretary, BSNL Employees’ Union, Upendra Vajpayee, general secretary of LIC Class I Officers’ Federation, North Central Zone and R P Singh, secretary, Federation of Medical Representatives’ Association of India.
The inaugural session was chaired by N M Sundaram while the chairperson of the reception committee and CPI(M) central committee member Subhashini Ali welcomed the gathering.
Messages from V S Achuthanandan, Kerala chief minister, Md Amin, CITU general secretary, Sukomal Sen, Trade Union International (TUI) of Public and Allied Employees general secretary, and other fraternal trade unions in banks and insurance sector sent messages greeting the conference.
The gathering was surprised and thrilled when the legendary freedom fighter and an associate of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, Capt. Lakshmi Sehgal walked into the hall to participate in the inaugural session. Despite her advanced age and general weakness Capt. Lakshmi Sehgal decided to participate in the inaugural session thus enthusing and inspiring the delegates and observers.
The delegates’ session commenced the next day with the presentation of the report by the general secretary on behalf of the working committee. The 102-page report began with the analysis of the problems being confronted by humanity due to the aggression of imperialism led by the United States which is attempting to gain control over the critical natural resources across the world. Its war against Iraq has totally destroyed that nation and brought unimaginable death, destruction and miseries to the people. It is now making preparations to attack Iran. The US is pursuing a strategy not to allow any other nation to gain economic and military superiority over it at a time when its economy has become fragile and is under increasing challenge. The report noted the growing struggles and resistance movements against US imperialism across the world and more importantly in Latin America. The struggles of the working class, both in the developed and developing world, against imperialist globalisation are gathering momentum and these events give confidence to the democratic movement.
The report dwelt at length on the national situation. It was underlined that the benefits of the much touted economic growth have been cornered by a small elite section condemning the vast majority to groan under poverty, hunger and destitution. The UPA government has not shown any interest to honour the promises made in the National Common Minimum Program. The UPA continues to pursue the policies of privatisation and liberalisation. It is making all efforts to liberalise the financial sector including insurance. The major component of the UPA, the Congress, has shown no courage to fight the communal forces and this has resulted in the communal forces regrouping and attempting to disrupt the unity of the people. The UPA government has given up the tested and long standing independent foreign policy and has shown willingness to be the junior partner of the US imperialism and in the process help secure the regional and strategic interests of United States. The shift in the foreign policy coupled with the pursuance of neo-liberal policies domestically has created a dangerous situation. The Indian economy today is under tremendous pressure, influence and dominance of the international finance capital. This is threatening the sovereignty of the nation. This situation calls for an intense struggle against the neo-liberal policies.
The public sector general insurance industry has shown tremendous resilience in meeting the challenges thrown by liberalisation of the sector. The LIC retains its domination in the life insurance business and the four general insurance companies are also doing well despite the attempts of both the government and IRDA to frame policies and rules against the interests of the public sector. The movement led by AIIEA has so far prevented the government from bringing in a comprehensive legislation on insurance reforms through which it seeks to privatise the sector and allow greater penetration of foreign direct investment. Therefore, the campaign has to be intensified to win support of the widest possible sections of the Indian people. There is an urgency to launch a struggle for the merger of the four public sector general insurance companies to create a single corporation.
The AIIEA won a handsome wage revision earlier. It has submitted charter for wage revision due from 1.8.2007 demanding a hike of 40 per cent. The achievement of this demand would require a huge effort on the part of the organisation which should prepare the employees on this demand. The report called for consolidation of the organisation to meet the huge challenges and achieve the tasks laid down.
M K Pandhe, president of CITU attended the conference on December 11, 2007 and addressed the delegate session. In his 40-minute address to the conference, he spoke at length on the growing resistance to the neo-liberal policies across the world. The eleven all India strikes in the country by the working class could halt the onslaught of these policies. But he said “now is the time to go for bigger and wider struggles which would take us from halting the pace of these policies to reversing the policies”. K Natarajan, general secretary, AIIPA also addressed the delegates and assured that AIIPA would coordinate with AIIEA in observing the programmes to protect the public sector insurance industry and to improve the pension benefits.
There was a vibrant discussion on the report with a total of 60 comrades participating in it. Chandrasekhar Bose, former president and founder member of AIIEA and R Govindarajan, former joint secretary of AIIEA also addressed the conference and contributed to the debate by presenting their views.
There was total unanimity on all the major issues. The conference agreed that imperialism is the greatest threat to humanity today and therefore people must be mobilised to resist the evil designs of imperialism. The conference also agreed that the growing inequalities are a damning indictment of the neo-liberal policies being pursued and there is need to further broaden the struggle against these policies. The participants in the debate appreciated the role being played by the Left parties and urged upon the working class to defend the Left against the attacks and conspiracies of the Indian ruling classes and imperialist agencies. The participants in the debate pledged to work for the protection of the industry while at the same time forcefully demanding recruitment and 40 per cent wage revision in insurance sector. In the backdrop of such unanimity and determination of purpose displayed in the debate, the general secretary summed up the debate. The report was thereafter adopted unanimously amidst loud applause.
The conference unanimously elected a team of office-bearers with Amanulla Khan (Bangalore) as the president, K Venu Gopal (Hyderabad) as the general secretary and B S Ravi (Hyderabad) as the treasurer of AIIEA.
N M Sundaram relinquished the office of the president of AIIEA after an illustrious contribution to the movement of the insurance employees for over 46 years. Sundaram who became the general secretary of Southern Zone and joint secretary of AIIEA at the age of 25 years served the organisation with great distinction. He became the general secretary of AIIEA in 1988 and its president in the year 2003. Sundaram continues to be the editor of Insurance Worker magazine of the organisation.
The conference decided on the following programme of action:
One Day Strike if the government introduces the comprehensive legislation on insurance sector in the parliament in order to facilitate privatisation and entry of larger share of FDI into the sector;
To observe “Defend Public Sector Day” on January 19, 2008 and demand recognition of AIIEA in LIC;
Observance of All India Demands Day on May 13, 2008 demanding merger of the four public sector general insurance companies.