People's Democracy

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


Vol. XXXIII

No. 49

December 06, 2009

DELHI

Super Bazaar Staff Scores Victory

 

Deep Singh

THE Super Bazaar Cooperative Store Ltd in Connaught Place, New Delhi, was opened in 1966 with the aim of controlling the rise in prices and preventing the black marketing of essential items.

But, unfortunately, the NDA government closed the store in 2003 on the plea of losses (which were minor in any way) and mismanagement. Consequently, 2200 employees stood to lose their jobs and come to the street.

Six small employees unions operated in the Super Bazaar and thus the employees were divided into many groups.

However, two comrades --- Deep Singh and Nalini Lal Singh --- met the then CPI(M) general secretary, late Comrade Harkishan Singh Surjeet, in September 2003 and sought his intervention in this matter.

Next day, 400 employees of the Super Bazaar gathered at the CPI(M) central office at AKG Bhavan under the leadership of Deep Singh and talked to Comrade Surjeet, requesting his intervention. Comrade Surjeet assured them full support and immediately wrote a strong letter to the then food and civil supplies minister, Sharad Yadav, insisting that the government of India must revive the Super Bazaar. The staff of the Super Bazaar derived much courage from this action of Comrade Surjeet.

Comrade Surjeet also assured the employees that all the members pf parliament belonging to the CPI(M) would put pressure on the government for the revival of the Super Bazaar. Following it, 760 employees of the Super Bazaar chain joined the CITU as Delhi Office Establishment Employees Union, and started an agitation with dharnas and other protest actions at Jantar Mantar under the leadership of the CITU.

Deep Singh also filed a case with the Shops and Establishments Authority for payment for wages of the employees. Later, the matter was brought to the Supreme Court of India, pleading for a revival of the Super Bazaar and the payment of wages to the 1030 employees existing on the rolls in 2005.

The employees of the store did not allow to the government to dispose of the assets of the Super Bazaar. The government wanted to dispose of the Super Bazaar’s assets worth Rs 600 crore at a throwaway price of Rs 15 crore only. The employees protested when the government published the tenders for an auction of the shops and other immoveable properties, and lodged a complaint with the CBI, accusing the government of intending to perpetrate a scam. Consequently, the auctions were stopped for an indefinite period.

After a long legal battle, the Supreme Court of India gave a favourable judgement on February 26, 2009 declaring that the Super Bazaar will be revived by the highest bidder. Subsequently, Dainik Bhaskar Industries came out as the highest bidder in an auction. As per the apex court’s ruling, this group will also pay to the existing 1030 employees their back wages since May 2003 till this day. This comes to a total of Rs 54.31 crore. The employment of and the continuity of service benefits due to the employees will also be secure.

It may be noted here that 1170 out of the 2200 Super Bazaar employees had availed of the VRS in 2004. Thus, a total of 1030 employees fought for a revival of the Super Bazaar.

The employees’ joy knew no bounds on October 5, 2009, when the employers sent them notices asking them to rejoin their duties. The employees were also given a cheque of Rs 10,000 each for celebrating the festival of Diwali.

Although the business of the bazaar has not started so far and this will take some more time, the employees have joined their duties and started to mark their attendance from October 8, 2009, in the Connaught Place, Patel Nagar, Khichripur, Kalyanpuri and Palam branches.

The employees have expressed their deeply felt sense of gratitude to the late Comrade Harkishan Singh Surjeet. They have also expressed thanks for Prakash Karat and other top leaders of the CPI(M), all the MPs of the latter, and H C Pant of the CITU who brought pressure upon the government to waive off Rs 137 crore so that the bazaar might be revived.