Shri Udayrao Patwardhan is the general secretary of Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS). Organiser correspondent, Pramod Kumar spoke to him in New Delhi to know about the 50-years journey of the country'slargest labour organisation, which held its 14th national executive in Delhi from April 3 to 5. Excerpts:
How do you evaluate the 50 years of BMS?
The 50 years of BMS have been the story of success. Nowhere in the world have the trade unions found function without the patronisation of political forces. But the BMS, since its inception, has decided to be a non-political force. This was quite a new concept. But somehow with the very determine efforts of our thousands of workers, the BMS has been successful in meeting all the challenges that were thrown at it and now after 50 years it emerges as the strongest and the largest trade union of India.
What have been the challenges during this period?
The first and foremost challenge before us was to establish our own identity. The second challenge came straight from the leftist forces which then were at the crest of their popularity and who had campaigned for class struggle or class conflict theories. In fact, the hollowness behind their thinking and theories was evident as the campaigning was so heavy that almost the entire country was taken in its wreck. Opposing these theories, the BMS realised that unless the labour is directly connected with the society and the nation as such, the brotherhood would not emerge. The labour cannot be seen in isolation. The labour has to be seen along with the industry and the society and therefore the labours? interests necessarily lay in the interest of the nation, society and the industry. Establishing such a new concept was itself a great challenge.
The third challenge was the availability of resources, because the rest of the trade unions started their work by defection or by getting the readymade material like leaders, funds, etc. The BMS had none of that. It had to start from the scratch. In the first 12 years the challenge was to find out suitable people. Emergency also came as a major challenge. The globalisation is the latest phase of challenge where the entire world community is looking at the preposition of prosperity in different perspectives. The BMS looks at it as the economic aggression on the sovereignty of India. The globalisation did not come alone, it came a with chain of problems. Though the slogan was ?change with human face?, that human face was never seen. Now we are facing this third phase of challenge.
After the passing away of Thengadiji, how far has the organisation work suffered, if it has suffered?
The BMS has for the last few decades developed a system of collective leadership. Even Thengadiji insisted on making collective decisions. There has been no towering personality in the BMS set-up. All are equal. We are now used to this system. Dattopantji'sabsence has left a vacuum is us. After all, life is mortal. Everyone has to pass away. I don'tthink the organisation work has been affected because Thengadiji had laid the foundation so strong that the entire structure is safe.
The new UPA government appears to be following the similar anti-labour policy as the NDA government allegedly used to be. But the BMS looks softer on the UPA government than it was on the NDA government. Comment.
That is not true. Any duly-elected government needs sometime to get settle. We met the new Prime Minister in July last year and he sought some time, as his government needed more time to settle in the new role. It was evidently true because they had some strange combination. The ruling party comes from different ideology and its supporters, the leftist parties, have a different ideology. Therefore, we thought it fit to give them some time. We gave a memorandum to the PM and the FM in writing. But surprisingly the government always kept on saying that it accommodated all the demands of trade unions. The government policy seems very clear, that it wants to go in a way of globalisation. There is nothing in the recent budget for workers. Even the employment scheme announced by the government is for rural unemployed youth. What happened to the urban unemployed youth?
But why is there still no agitation on the part of BMS?
This has been the end of patience. The national conference concluded in Delhi focused all its attention towards the policies that are being unfolded by the government. Our basic thinking is that bandhs do not pay much result unless they have national support. Common people take trade unions as their enemies because it is ultimately they who suffer. Mass awareness and mass contact campaigns are needed to be taken up. It is, of course a long route, but we should take that. We are planning to go in that fashion. Since the rest of the trade unions are politically motivated, we have started making thrust on their transparency and their commitment for fighting for the cause of labourers. Because they are playing a double game. They are supporting the government and are also criticising the government. They should either criticize the government or support it. People will soon start realising the reality behind this design. But we are not design makers, politicians or manipulators. We will arouse the public opinion. We are going to take agitation programmes on a very large scale by the end of this year.
How far is the Patents Act going to affect the poor people?
The Act does not care for the poor. The medicines will be costly by ten times. One cannot imagine how they are going to take people for ride. All are aware that in South Africa, there was a big rise on this issue as the European companies were selling their pharmaceutical drugs, ten times costly and when the Indian companies entered the market the patients were relieved. But now that option has gone even for the Indian people.