People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 41

October 10, 2010

LIC Agents Rise up in Nationís Interest


                   P G Dileep


WHILE the prices of essential commodities and petroleum products have shot up quite high, the very existence of poor LIC agents is now under threat. Yet, if they are now on the agitation path, it is not for some narrow gain. It is to be noted that never since 1956 (when the insurance business in the country was nationalised) have the LIC agents agitated for a rise in their commissions. 


Even today, those who move in all parts of the country, in even the remotest areas, to bring business for the Life Insurance Corporation of India (LIC), are not asking for a raise in the commission rate. Then, one may wonder, why are they now coming out into the streets? They are in fact fighting to protect the existing benefits available to the agents while keeping in view the broader interests of the nation. Their demand is that the LIC must be saved and their hitherto available rights must be protected. 


The fact is that it was the force of 14.5 lakh agents that raised the capital of the LIC to more than Rs 11 lakh crore (11,000 billion rupees) from a meagre Rs 5 crore in 1956. Over the years, a lot of sweat and blood of the agents has gone into this substantial growth of the LIC. The Indian insurance agency system has been treated as a model all over the world. It is, moreover, the LIC agents who are working hard to ensure the growth of the LIC even after the entry of 22 joint venture companies in the life insurance business in the country.


That is how the multinationals have realised that the LIC can be destroyed, to their advantage, only by eliminating these agents. So they are hell bent upon breaking the backbone of the LIC, i.e. the agency force, in collaboration with the UPA government.


Moreover, as these multinational companies are operating in the Indian market in collaboration with Indian corporate companies, the latter too are hyperactive to somehow influence the UPA government to try to eliminate the agents.


However, if the government of India succumbs to this pressure, it would amount to killing the goose that lays golden eggs.


The reason is simple. There is no other organisation like the LIC which has helped the government by handing it over Rs 11 lakh crore for infrastructure development. Logically, if such a huge resource base gets jeopardised, there is no doubt that the Indian economy would collapse and India would have to be permanently dependent on the IMF and World Bank for loans. Further, the capitalist countries are doing their level best to block the fast growth of Indian economy towards a prominent position in the world. That is why the agents of the LIC have repeatedly been pointing out that this is not a problem of agents alone but of every patriotic Indian citizen.


It is in this background that the LIC Agentsí Organisation of India (LICAOI) has chalked out an agitation programme, with the support of other sections of the common public, to save the LIC. 


The demands the LIC agents are projecting are as below: control on the prices of essential commodities, protection of all public sector undertakings, halt to privatisation, withdrawal of the Insurance Bill, legislation to ensure the welfare of LIC agents, withdrawal of the amendments to the Agents Rules 1972, designation of the agents as sales executives, no introduction of direct selling, withdrawal of the IRDA proposal for agency renewal, and implementation of the demands to which the LIC management had agreed earlier.


On September 1, the day on which the LIC was formed, its agents formed human chains in front of all the divisional offices of the organisation. The slogans were Save LIC and Protect the Agents. 


The action took place is in coordination with the CITU, AIIEA and NFIFWI. There were militant demonstrations in 73 divisions of the LIC, with 150 to 10,000 agents and their family members, LIC staff, members of fraternal trade unions and members of the common public participating in the demonstrations. About two lakh people joined the programme overall. In almost all places, MPs, MLAs, mayors, councillors and trade union leaders were present to express solidarity. This agitation conducted on an all-India basis proved to be a big success.


On the same day, a signature campaign commenced in all the centres. V S Achuthanandan, the chief minister of Kerala, inaugurated the all-India signature campaign in Thiruvananthapuram and several prominent leaders then took it ahead. The plan is to submit a memorandum to the union finance minister with five crore signatures. The LICAOI has solicited the support of one and all in this venture. 


(P G Dileep is general secretary of the LICAOI.)