(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
April 03, 2011
Govt out to Perpetrate Crimes upon People
THE Congress-led government of the day is on a spree to commit one crime after another on the nation and the people. If the UPA-1 regime could not fulfil its wish-list of anti-people measures as it was dependent on the Left to remain in power, the Congress now has allies like the Trinamul Congress and DMK and an “opposition” like the BJP who support the government in most of its criminal acts.
These crimes are a legion --- from arrogant patronisation to allowing the speculators and hoarders in the food market to jack the prices up and earn windfall profit. It did everything to enable the corporate houses to loot the public exchequer, e.g. in telecom spectrum sale or in procurement of contracts for the Commonwealth Games.
On March 23, the government introduced in Rajya Sabha a bill titled Labour Laws (Exemptions from Furnishing Returns and Maintaining Registers for Certain Establishments) Amendment Bill 2011, which aims at virtually liberating the employers of establishments employing up to 40 persons from the obligations of almost all basic labour laws governing minimum wages, payment of wages, working hours, contract work, payment of bonus and what not. Already, all these labour laws are being observed more in their violation in most of the workplaces, particularly in the private sector, but the new bill aims to legalise such crimes and give then the statutory seal of approval by the central government.
If the establishments employing up to 40 persons are freed from all obligations under the existing labour laws, what would be its implication? This would throw at least 78 per cent of the workforce in the manufacturing sector alone out of the purview of labour laws and put then completely at the mercy of the employers. Moreover, this figure is based on the employment pattern revealed by the factories who have been submitting regular returns to the government. Further, as per the government’s own estimates, hardly 30 per cent of the factories are actually submitting regular returns. Thus the actual percentage of protectionless workers must be much more than estimated.
Now, if we consider the service establishments of various kinds mushrooming in the economy through the process of rampant outsourcing, the number of workers to get thrown out of any kind of legal protection would be much higher. Add to it the normal practice of most of the private sector employers or most of the contractors of public sector companies not to record the names of all the workers in their employment registers, and you will find that in actuality more than 90 per cent of the workforce in the organised sector alone will be at the mercy of total lawlessness and anarchy of the employers class.
We can recall that when the same bill was introduced during the UPA-1 regime, the Left parties and the protest agitations by the working class did not allow the government to push it through. But after getting free from their dependence on Left support, the Congress and their allies are now demonstrating unalloyed loyalty and commitment to their corporate masters, officialising the latter’s right to loot the workers and deprive them of their basic rights.
The government introduced in Lok Sabha on March 22 the Banking Laws Amendment Bill which aims to empower the foreign bankers to dominate the private sector banks on Indian soil on the one hand and to empower the private sector shareholders, both domestic and foreign, in public sector banks to interfere in the functioning of these banks through enhanced voting rights.
The implication of this bill has to be understood in the context of loud announcement of the finance minister in his latest budget speech to encourage private sector banks to grow through liberal issuance of licenses. Also, the discussion paper circulated on the website of the Reserve Bank of India virtually calls upon the big industrial houses to own banks of their own and take the rural banks over. All these things, taken together, expose the nefarious gameplan to create a much bigger space for private sector banks and speculators, both domestic and particularly foreign, in the financial sector. This would squeeze the space of the nationalised banks through various policy interventions like merger of banks, reduction in number of branches in the name of duplication and other restrictive directions, thus putting them in a disadvantaged position vis-à-vis the private sector and foreign banks. Foreign banks, with much bigger money power, will thus corner the savings of the common people. This will dechannelise the savings generated internally to speculative markets instead of the development and employment generating projects.
In its absolute subservience to their masters in the World Bank and Washington, the government of the day refused to take lessons from the global financial meltdown owing to reckless speculation by the banking sector of the USA and Europe and the resultant recession and crisis in the world economy. Rather, they have chosen to weaken and marginalise the public sector banks and insurance sector which did indeed insulate to a great extent the Indian economy and the people from the disaster of such financial meltdown.
This particular bill too was introduced during the UPA-1 regime but the Left parties did not allow it to pass and it lapsed with the 14th Lok Sabha. Now the UPA-2 government is out to commit this crime on our economy and people.
On March 24, the government reintroduced the Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority Bill, which the Left intervention had forced to lapse during the last Lok Sabha. On March 24, when the Left MPs in Lok Sabha pressed for a division during the introduction of the bill, as usual the allies lent support to the bill while the main opposition, BJP, also joined in bailing the government out. As it is, this bill is going to facilitate a loot on the social security right of the mass of toiling people, in order too to pamper and patronise the speculators.
The PFRDA Bill proposes a paradigm shift of the very concept of social security like pension from a defined benefit to a contribution arrangement. It liberates the government from its basic obligation to provide for secured benefits and tells the people to purchase their pension, if they so desire, from the market. The new concept will be imposed on all central government employees joining the service on or after January 1, 2004. The bill envisages pension to be given to the employees and workers at the rate based on return on their own money invested in the market. It has mentioned in no uncertain term that there will be no “implicit or explicit assurance” of guaranteed return.
The message is loud and clear. The pension will no more be secure and no more linked with the price index. Workers have to make hefty contributions to get a pension but even after making their contributions, they will have no guarantee that their life-long contribution will fetch them an assured amount. Everything will be decided by the gods of the market. The accumulated contribution of the workers would inevitably flow to the stock market, to be speculated by the fund managers appointed by the Pension Regulatory Authority. There will be no guarantee from the government. Pension amounts will go down if the market is low, and life-long savings will be lost if the market crashes.
So far, the experiences of pension fund investment in stock market in various countries has been that, on all occasions, workers’ money in pension fund was used to raise the temperature in the stock market, whereupon brokers and speculators always gained and workers always lost.
As this bill proposes, pension will no more be a social security, i.e. a secure return at the end of service life. The bill seeks to convert pension, or for that matter all kinds of social security, into a business for speculators. Once this bill becomes an act, other social security funds like provident fund etc will, sooner or later, come in its ambit; the government may well retune its monetary policy and interest rate regime to ensure this disastrous inevitability.
While the PFRDA Bill ensures liberal unhindered entry of foreign investors in the pension business, it also ensures that parliament would not decide any ceiling on foreign participation. This will be decided by a subservient government through an executive order, in the interest of speculative finance capital and foreign masters.
If this not a crime upon the people, then what else it is?
The point to seriously ponder is that homework for all these three disastrous bills started during the BJP-led NDA regime and that the UPA-1 regime made frequent efforts to push them through, though in vain. Also, both the alliances, NDA and UPA, hah had certain common partners in these exercises of criminality. Two such common partners have been the Trinamul Congress and DMK who aided in these disastrous anti-worker and anti-people exercises. None of them can wash its hands off.
Moreover, the main opposition party, the BJP, has also joined hands in perpetrating these crimes on people and the nation.
In fact, it is the Left parties and the working people’s movement, whose aspirations coincide with the Left’s vision on national interest and people’s right, who have been putting up a real opposition to such neo-liberal crimes.
The perpetrators of these crimes, their allies and their hangers-on stand identified today, but their game is not yet over. Though these bills have been introduced, they have not been passed. The situation demands more mobilisation and more militant resistance outside --- in the workplaces, on the streets. Only the Left can lead this struggle and help people recognise their real enemies.