People's Democracy(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
February 04, 2001
AIIEA Celebrates Golden Jubilee Year
Conference Decides To Identify with Wider Struggles
MEETING at Chennai from January 6 to 11, the 18th conference of the All India Insurance Employees Association (AIIEA) discussed, among other issues, the need to identify the organisation with the general democratic movement in the country. The AIIEA is the biggest organisation of insurance employees in India, with its branches even in remote areas of the country.
The conference commenced on January 6 with a big rally, attended by over 10,000 employees, including 2000 delegates and observers from all over the country, and came to a successful culmination on January 11.
One of the issues focussed by the conference, which took place in the Golden Jubilee year of the AIIEA, was the sinister design of the NDA government, at the behest of some of the ruling alliance partners, to dismiss the Left Front government of West Bengal. With an eye on the coming assembly elections in West Bengal, an offensive is being launched to dismiss the elected state government under article 356 of the constitution, the same article that has been abused on a large number of occasions in the history of our nation. The conference noted that the Left Front government of West Bengal has been a staunch ally of insurance employees in all their struggles including that against privatisation, has consistently championed the rights of the working class and other toiling masses, and has always intervened in favour of the oppressed sections of the people. The West Bengal governments refusal to promulgate the anti-working class Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA) during the recent strike, despite the central government's directive, won the approbation of all sections of the working class. Its support, ideological and otherwise, to all protest movements against the NDA governments disastrous economic policies of globalisation invited the wrath of the powers-that-be which have been advocating those policies. Hence the threat to use article 356 to dismiss the state government.
The conference noted that the ongoing conspiracy against the Left Front government also involves a regrouping of the vested interests for undoing the pro-people reforms that have been implemented in 24 years of the Left Front rule in West Bengal. The vested interests are up against, more particularly, the thoroughgoing land reforms that were implemented with the courage of conviction, benefiting crores of people in the rural sector.
After having considered all these aspects, the conference decided to call upon all its units to stage demonstrations in front of all offices of the Life Insurance Corporation (LIC) and General Insurance Corporation (GIC) if the West Bengal government is thus dismissed. These demonstrations would be organised on the day immediately following the presidential proclamation, if any, in this regard. Call was also given to insurance employees to join all democratic protests against such a move.
The conference expressed the opinion that any such attack on democracy, if allowed to go unchallenged, will spell disaster for the democratic system itself. So all the AIIEA units would plunge themselves into this struggle, if needed, and send memoranda to the president and the prime minister of India.
The conference specifically urged the Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh governments that, even though they support the BJP-led regime at the centre, they must not become parties to this nefarious attempt. It reminded them that, in the past, the DMK governments of Tamil Nadu and the TDP government of Andhra Pradesh have themselves been victims of the misuse of article 356, and that they had come to power on the specific anti-356 plank.
Another issue focussed at the conference was the proposed picketing by the peasantry and agricultural workers from February 5 to 7, against the anti-agriculture policies of the central government. With the policy of liberalisation set in motion under the IMF-World Bank-WTO combines pressure, the life of the Indian peasants and agricultural workers is getting increasingly ruined. Liberalised imports of tea, rubber, copra, milk products and a number of other agricultural products, coupled with the withdrawal of food and farm subsidies, have brought disaster to our agricultural economy. The reports of peasants committing suicides, selling kidneys and migrating on a large scale to cities tell us as to what despicable levels their life has sunk. The non-receipt of remunerative prices for their produce has forced the peasants to go in for distress sales, landing them in complete penury. The agricultural policy of the NDA government, with its ready compliance of the WTO dictates, eminently suits the imperialist game to make India, like other developing countries, subservient to them in a neo-colonial system.
Having discussed this question, the conference decided to extend all support and solidarity to the countrywide agitation of peasants and agricultural labourers. It decided that all the AIIEA units would organise solidarity demonstrations in front of all LIC and GIC offices on February 7, during lunch recess, and send protest telegrams to the prime minister.
The report of the AIIEA working committee also discussed other aspects of the socio-economic and political scenario in the world and in India. It covered the problems being faced by insurance employees and the insurance industry in the background of the central governments move to privatise it. After discussion, the conference unanimously decided to continue the struggle against privatisation of insurance industry, even though the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority (IRDA) Act has been passed and private companies have been issued licenses to operate. The conference noted that the question of insurance privatisation has to be looked upon in the larger perspective of globalisation and liberalisation that are spelling disaster to the Indian economy as well as our economic sovereignty. The Indian governments surrender before the offensive being launched by imperialism is the basic cause for the privatisation spree being indulged in, including privatisation of insurance. The IRDA Act was passed most undemocratically, with the BJP-led government ignoring the petition signed by over 1.5 crore Indian people; as a result, the very economy of India is getting inexorably indentured to private and foreign monopoly interests.
The working committees report was unanimously adopted by the conference after a thorough discussion in which 83 delegates, including 14 women, participated.
The conference congratulated the insurance employees for their ten years long, relentless struggle against privatisation and called upon them to continue the struggle with vigour and determination. At the same time, the conference urged them to integrate their struggles with those of different sections of the community, who too were groaning under the burdens of the LPG (globalisation, liberalisation and privatisation) policy of the government. Therefore, while being insurance-specific, the future course of the struggle should embrace the problems of other sections of the toilers as well, including those in the agricultural sector, small industries, etc. The conference decided that the AIIEA should not only join united struggles but also take initiatives in forging such struggles. This clarion call for carrying forward struggle against privatisation and for broadening, deepening and intensifying it, was welcomed with thundering ovation.
One of the resolutions adopted by the AIIEA conference on several issues, called upon the insurance employees to fight communalism and casteism as the evils that divide the society and the people.
The conference elected for the ensuing term a working committee consisting of 156 members. They represent both the life insurance and the general insurance sectors. R P Manchanda, N M Sundaram and K Somasundaram were re-elected as president, general secretary and treasurer respectively.