People's Democracy

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


No. 05

February 02, 2014




BEFI Holds 13th State Conference


R Mitra


    THE Bank Employees Federation of India (BEFI) recently organised at Kolkata its two-day 13th West Bengal state conference, which got off to a flying start on Saturday, January 18, 2014, with a big colourful procession of bank employees, numbering about 2,000. The procession started from outside the Bengal Chambers of Commerce building in BBD Bag area in Kolkata and headed towards the Mahajati Sadan, the venue of the conference, thus covering a stretch of about two km through the main thoroughfares going towards the northern part of the city. The venue of the conference was named Comrade Dilip Mukherjee Nagar, after a legendary leader of the bank and RRB employees’ movement, while the dais  was named Comrade Kalyan Biswas Mancha, after another leader of the BEFI. Both these leaders departed since the 12th state conference of the BEFI held in 2011.


    CITU general secretary Tapan Sen, BEFI general secretary Pradip Biswas, UFBU state convenor Nagendranath Bhattacharya, 12th July Committee’s joint convenor Shibshankar Roy, state BEFI’s outgoing general secretary Joydeb Dasgupta and AIIEA leader Shyamal Roy, among others, addressed the open session. The meeting was presided over by Tapan Das, outgoing state president of the BEFI.


   Tapan Sen captivated the audience by dissecting almost every aspect of the neo-liberal economic ‘reforms’ and their disastrous fallout on the banking system in the country. He deeply appreciated the role played by the bank employees and officers under the banner of United Forum of Bank Unions (UFBU) to challenge the ongoing ‘reforms’ through a series of strikes and other actions since 1991 down to the latest one in banks in India on  December 18, 2013. He also referred to the growing attacks on democratic movement in West Bengal, including the attacks on women, peasants, working class and students. This is nothing but an attempt to silence the united might of the toiling people in the state to smoothen the passage of ongoing ‘reforms.’ He cautioned: unless checked, this anti-democratic ethos is likely to be played out in the bigger national arena after the next election to the parliament, with an all-round attack on the life and livelihood of the common people. He called upon the bank employees to play a pivotal role to help organise militant protest actions of the Indian working class against the ongoing anti-people ‘reforms’ and thus help shape the broad contours of an alternative policy paradigm to save the Indian economy.


    Pradip Biswas dwelt in detail on the attack of international finance capital and its cohorts on the public sector banks in India, and dealt with the ongoing wage negotiations with the Indian Banks Association (IBA). Nagendranath Bhattacharya detailed the united struggle of bank employees and how some bank managements (like that of the SBI) are out to curtail the democratic right of protest and meeting, probably getting emboldened by the current anti-democratic atmosphere in West Bengal as created by the state government.


   Leaders of other fraternal organisations like the 12th July Committee, State Coordination Committee, AIIEA, Central Government Coordination Committee, Mercantile Federation, Bank Retirees Federation etc were also present in good numbers during the open session.


    The delegates session began on the morning of January 19, with the placing of wreaths at the Martyrs Column at Dilip Mukherjee Nagar (Mahajati Sadan), amid chanting of spirited slogans by more than 880 delegates and observers as well as 100 volunteers. The presidium at the Kalyan Biswas Mancha comprised the outgoing President and all the vice presidents of the state unit of the BEFI. The steering committee was made up of all the remaining outgoing office bearers.


BEFI president A K Rameshbabu inaugurated the session, dealing with major aspects of the history of development of bank employees’ movement, the birth of neo-liberal economic policies, the latter’s full-blown manifestation in India now, and the fighting response of the bank employees and other contingents of the working class against the neo-liberal offensives. He urged upon the delegates and observers to strengthen the BEFI as it has proved to be the most dependable instrument of the fighting bank employees and the cementing force for the development of a united movement in banks.


    State BEFI general secretary Joydeb Dasgupta placed the report on the activities of the outgoing committee since the last conference of the Federation held at Kolkata in 2011. While placing the report, he also dwelt in detail on the ongoing attacks on working people throughout the world, especially since the global financial crisis in 2008, in the name of ‘reforms.’ These attacks are getting manifested in forms like the backbreaking price rises, unprecedented corruption, loot of public resources, attacks on weaker sections and women, proposed ‘reforms’ in the banking industry including the RBI, NABARD, regional rural banks (RRBs) and cooperative banks. There are also no holds barred attacks on the democratic and trade union movements in West Bengal since the so-called 'change' of the Trinamul Congress’ liking took place. But he also emphatically highlighted, amid loud clapping by the delegates and observers, the fact of increasing fight-back by the bank employees and the growing membership as well as fighting strength of the BEFI in West Bengal. Almost in all the banks where new recruitments have taken place, especially of contract and other unorganised workers, the membership of the newly formed and BEFI affiliated Bank Contractual and Contract Workmen's Union (BCCWU) has crossed the 4,000 mark since its inception in 2011. He also outlined the future organisational steps to be taken and actions to be launched by the state unit of the BEFI so as to face the emerging challenges. The report called upon the delegates and observers to play their due role in the coming parliamentary elections in the country, as they did on the previous occasions, to advance the movement of the working class including that of bank employees in the country.


     Immediately after placement of the general secretary’s report, and also of the audited statement of accounts, deliberation on the two documents began and continued up to the lunch recess on January 20. Altogether, 67 delegates and observers including four ladies took part in the discussion on the report in which they dug out many a facet of the current developments and future challenges facing the country, state and industry. Both organisational strengths and weaknesses were discussed threadbare to make the state unit of the BEFI a more vibrant unit.


   On the morning of January 20, renowned economist Professor Amiya Bagchi delivered the “Jyoti Basu Birth Centenary Memorial Lecture” on the subject “Attack of Corporate Capital on Indian Banking System.” In a speech specked with simplicity, Professor Bagchi, while tracing the history of banking in India, also cautioned against the current attempt by the policy makers and “official economists” to blindly copy the western models of banking and economy for India --- models which have little relevance to our development needs. The significant weakening of institutional rural credit --- including the attempts to change the development banking orientation of the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) --- came in for sharp criticism from Professor Bagchi. He lauded the efforts of the trade unions working in the banking sector, including the BEFI, to bring the entire gamut of disastrous policy recipe into the arena of public debate, by their agitational and organisational actions, and called for more meaningful and concerted action in future to prevent the damaging fallout of neo-liberal economy for a country like India.


    On this occasion, as a mark of respect to Comrade Jyoti Basu, a pictorial album book titled Aguner Parashmoni (the Midas’ Touch of Fire), containing innumerable snaps spanning an eventful and more than seven decades long political journey of the legendary trade union and communist leader, was released and presented to all the delegates, observers and distinguished guests. It was a priceless gift appreciated by one and all.


    In between, eight resolutions in total were passed --- against price rise, religious fundamentalism, disinvestment in the public sector undertakings, outsourcing, on the current situation in West Bengal, for expeditious conclusion of the tenth bipartite wage settlement in banks, for demands of the employees and officers in the RRBs, against the undemocratic attacks on cooperative sector in West Bengal, etc.


   After the reply by the outgoing general secretary and the treasurer, the delegates unanimously adopted the report as well as the accounts, and also adopted two amendments to the constitution. They also elected a new general council, which in turn elected a new executive committee and its office bearers. The team would be led by Sukhomoy Sarkar as president, Joydeb Dasgupta as general secretary and Shyamaprasad Bhattacharya as treasurer.


    The untiring and selfless services of the dedicated volunteers, who left no stone unturned to make the occasion a grand success, left an indelible mark on the mind of every participants.