Last December 15th, 95% of BSNL employees went on a one-day national strike across India. The BSNL is a state-owned telecom which is under attack by the neoliberal administration of prime minister Manmohan Singh. The socialist organization New Wave made a statement supporting the strike.
Statement in support of the BSNL strike on the 15th
The world economic crisis which crippled the economies of Europe and America has finally come to India in full strength. Every day we get news of spiraling inflation, declining growth, ‘tightening’ interest rates from the reserve bank. The government for its part has devised a neat way to get out of this crisis. Pass the burden on the working peoples! A natural and necessary component of this would be a speedier privatization of public sector companies. BSNL is directly affected by the government’s new approach with the new telecom policy targeting the public sector and insidiously enough, this is being done in the name of “benefiting the poor”! It is in this context that the various unions representing the workers of BSNL have united for a strike action in 15th of December this year.
Down with this “New Telecom Policy”!
The new telecom policy of the government is devised with its stated objectives of expanding the reach of telecom infrastructure in the country to the rural sector and increase spending in research and development and domestic manufacturing. The obvious route for the myopic bourgeois of course is through fleecing the public sector, narrowing it down, undermining it in favor of the private sector with the vague hope and expectation that they will carry forth all of these magnanimous tasks of social development.
It is obvious that private capital cannot be trusted for this purpose. Profits, not social spending is their main target if at all private telecom companies go into the rural hinterland it will be for that reason alone and nothing else. Quite obviously thus, the much vaunted goal of the new policy of expanding the reach of telecom and strengthening domestic R&D and manufacturing in telecom hardware, would never be achieved in full. What would instead be achieved would be the increased penetration of foreign capital and the rapid expansion and consolidation of the existing Indian monopolies who wield dominant power in this sector.
It wouldn’t surprise us in this context to point out that one of the barons of the telecom sector, Sunil Mittal of Bharti Airtel *( the largest mobile telephony company in India and Africa ) is also very close to the leadership of the Congress party, the ruling party of India *( His company was also the single largest donor to the Congress Party this year ). Intense lobbying by corporates like him is what is resulting in such policy decisions. The government for its part loves to pretend as a government of the poor and oppressed but is in actuality the representatives of the rich elite robber barons of big Capital. The main target of this skewed policy would of course be BSNL and all government owned telecom companies involved in manufacture and services.
After the privatizations of the first phase from the 1990s which resulted in MTNL going over to the Tatas and the corporatization of BSNL from DOT, the next phase is now coming as a means to get out of the glut and slowness created by the international crisis. But now there is a critical difference from the last phase. That critical difference lay in the strength of the working class which is increasing and increasing day by day as struggles increase and become more intense! This upcoming BSNL strike on the 15th comes exactly 1 year after the last strike which raised the issue of VRS, ITS officers and the discrimination against BSNL on acquiring new technologies. Of these the issue of ITS officers has been resolved, but the discrimination against BSNL still persists! This new telecom policy fits perfectly into this ongoing schema of the government.
All support to the strike! Strengthen the action of the workers! :
The strike action by the JAC is critical! The success of this action will pave the way for future struggles and will determine the fate of BSNL as a government enterprise. The objective must be not only defensive but also offensive in nature and attack the policies of the government aggressively. The discrimination towards BSNL must be reversed by guaranteeing it a privileged position in acquiring the latest in telecom technologies, and developing ancillary government industries involved in hardware manufacturing to end the dependency on imported hardware.
The exploitation of the company by a clique of privileged management bureaucrats must be ended with a fairer salary scheme aiming at reducing corporate managerial salaries which make up 55% of wage expenditure for the company. Tactically, the strike must not fall into the trap of tokenism by making it a one day strike and a plan must be made for the development of an indefinite strike should the government delay in the just demands of the workers. We must progressively work towards securing the interests of the workers of BSNL and giving it power in managing the company for its interest and keep the real interests of the people. To make the strike a success all must unite in struggle and show their solidarity to defend public assets in India against the threat of privatization.
Ultimately, it is the strength and unity of the working class and its allies amongst the poor peasants that will secure the interests of the struggling people of India and create a government that will work on its own terms and interests and not the interests of a parasitical privileged minority of bourgeois exploiters.