January 1999


Seminar In Privatisation and Closures of PSUs Prelude to a

new wave of workers struggles


'Forum Against New Coal Policy' organised a Seminar on Privatisation and closures of public sector units at Sukumar Hall, Ashis-Jabbar Nagar (Asansol), Bardhaman district, West Bengal on 6th and 7th February. Sukumar Banerjee was the first worker martyr of this industrial belt stretching from Durgapur in West Bengal to Dhanbad in Bihar, when he was run over bsa truck driven by an European officer while putting blockade on the gate of Raniganj Paper Mill as back as on 1937. Ashis and Jabbar were martyred by police firing in this belt during the famous food movement of 1966 which shook all over Bengal and prepared the ground fon Naxalbari Peasants uprising a year later.

This industrial belt is now vibrant with another phase of workers movement as the central government has decided to close down 64 collieries of Eastern 'coalfields Ltd., all of which are situated in this belt and another 8 PSUs, 5 of which are situated in West Bengal and 3 in this belt only. This attack is the biggest on workers of a single belt threatening the bread and livelihood of nearly one lakh workers and some 5 lakh of their family members along with tens of lakhs of people dependent on the economy of this region.

Forum against new coal policy was formed to organise the workers and put up resistance against these attacks coming as it is in the wake of New Economic policy adopted by Narasima Rao Government in 1991 and continued by the successive two United front Governments and now by the BJP led coalition Government. This forum was first launched at Chandrapur of Maharastra by June '98 when workers from Western Coalfields, Maharastra, Eastern Coalfield of West Bengal-Bihar and Singareni Coalfields of Andhra Pradesh gathered in a convention to condemn the New Coal Policy of the central Government which envisaged to close down all loss making collieries and retrench 2 lakh workers out of 6,76,000 workers of coal India Limited.

This Seminar was inaugarated by Kanchan Kumar of AILRC from Delhi. Subsequently, different speakers spoke on subject relating to privatisation and closures of PSUs. Firstly, one member of the APDR (association for the Protection of Democratic Rights) team which visited one colliery of Asansol to be closed by Government, spoke on their experience of how  rampant  mismanagement, corruption and faulty planning is responsible for the losses of collieries. These followed the reports of similar degeneration in the power-geasating State Electricity Board (SEB) governed by West Bengal government. Another speaker spoke of the reasons behind and effects of privatisation of Indian PSUs as it is directed and controlled by-the IMF-World Bank-WTO at the instance of the imperialist big brothers and the MNC/TNCs which are now ruling the world. Then reports of struggles of workers against the privatisation and closures of PSUs were presented by the Delhi TU leader and leader of the 'MAMC Banchao Committee' (save MAMC committee) which is formed to stop the designs of the central Government to close down the mining and allied machinery corporation of Durgapure employing about 5000 workers. The workers of the factory have come out of the established TUs including CITU and INTUC and took up the programme of Rail Roko on 8th February (which was anyhow suspended due to Bangla Bandh on the same date).

With this and cultural programmes the first day sessions were closed. On 7th Feb in the first session a paper was presented on New Coal Policy and its effects on workers from Western coalfield comrades followed by "The Present situation of ECL" in the wake of the Government decision to close down 64 collieries presented by AIPRF, Asansole and finally "Changes of Labour Laws in post-liberalisation period" presented by Susan Ibrahim, an Advocate from Bombay. Around 300 workers employees and youths of the colliery areas participated in the seminar. Some 50 volunteers worked overtime to make the seminar a success.

In the last session, a mass meeting was organised on the Municipal ground of Asansol where different speakers spoke against the anti-workers policies of the Government and called on the workers to organise and build up their genuine class organisations and take up the challenge thrown by the Government in the form of closure and privatisadon of lot of PSUs, cultural programmes from Nishantika, West Bengal and Avibyakti, Bihar enthused the gathered people at the ground.

But the most important part of the programme were two campaigns by students and youths for about one month in the collieries covering almost all the collieries listed for closing down. These campaignengs geaterated very work response among the colliery workers of both Bengal and Bihar. The established TU leaders and colliery management many times tried to stop the campaigning by threatening the workers and trying to disturb the campaign team. But each time the workers defied the red-eyes of management and TU leaders and stood like a nock surrounding the team members. 20-500 workers attended the various campaigns. They fed the team members and arranged for their shelters whenever necessary. Altogether some 40 members, both male and female, participated in  the two  times campaigning. The team members also get very much enthusiasm seeing the response of the workers.

The colliery workers expressed their eagerness to get organised freshly and throw away the old. TUs. The members of Forum against New coal policy are also seemed to be ready to take up the challenge of the situation. And hence a ground is being prepared in the vast industrial belt of Durgapur-Ranigunj-Asansol-Dhanbad for a life  and  death  struggle  which  may  inspire  the workers throughout India in their struggles for a new world order.




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