Special Interview on BMS Foundation Day, July 23
Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS) is going to enter 60th year on July 23. During the journey of six decades it has achieved various milestones and today it is the largest labour organisation in the country with 1.75 crore members. The BMS has planned many activities for the celebration of 60th year. Panchjanya Editor Hitesh Shankar and Organiser senior correspondent Pramod Kumar spoke to BMS organising Secretary KC Mishra in New Delhi on the journey of BMS and future course of action. Excerpts:
- How do you look at the 59 years journey of BMS?
It is very fruitful and satisfactory journey. The biggest achievement is that we have been able to establish nationalist vision among the labourers, which has been our prime objective since inception. Earlier, all trade unions were affiliated with some or the other the political party but we are the only labour organisation, which have no political leaning. We have moved forward with the nationalist thinking and it has been imbibed among the labourers. There was a time when trade unions were symbolic to red flags, now this perception has changed. The people with nationalist thinking dominate every sector. It is a big achievement in six decades. Communism, which influenced two third of the world, has now has lost ground even from the countries where it originated and nourished.
Six Decades, Six Milestones
The growing nationalism seems to be changing the heart of even hardcore communists. On September 8, 2013 CPI leader Gurudas Dasgupta, during a demonstration organised by Joint Front of CTUs at Jantar Mantar in Delhi shouted the slogans of ‘Bharatmata ki jai’ and ‘Vandemataram’. He went on saying that these slogans can only strengthen the labour movement today. It shows the way nationalist thinking has influenced labour movement and even the communists, who once treated us enemy number one. The BMS has also changed the mindset with regard to frequently organised strike. Earlier, it was the main weapon for left leaning unions, but we used it only as the last resort, when all negotiations fail. We firmly believe that the industry and nation should not suffer economic loss due to us.
On the one hand you said communism is dying but simultaneously, BMS is infusing new breathe in it by taking them along in agitations. Comment.
No, it is not correct. They may be weak at national level, but in certain sectors, like, banking they are still strong. Secondly, we believe that unitedly we can achieve good results.
- In your opinion who suffers due to strikes—labourers, industries or the nation?
Ultimately, it is the nation which suffers. Labourers too suffer as many of them are retrenched and we have to fight for years to get them reinstated. By and large it costs everybody.
n Is Congress supported AITUC also in the Joint Front?
Yes. Sanjeeva Reddy of AITUC is part of it since four years. However, it was not part of the National Campaign Committee (NCC), which collapsed after Shri Ramjanmabhoomi movement began in 1989. But it was with us even when there was a Congress led government at the Centre.
- How far the BMS has been able to achieve the dreams envisaged by Thengadiji, the BMS founder?
Our ultimate objective is 'workers’ ownership’. Honestly speaking, we are still far away from this dream. We are not even near to achieving it. We want that in Board of Directors of every institution at least half of the members should be from the workers side.
- How is participation of women in the organisation?
It is low at apex level, but at the ground level it is huge. We have effective women unions. In Anganwadi sector, they are a formidable force. When they organise any demonstration, over 50,000 women join it. The work is strong in Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Gujarat, etc. At district and state levels they have good participation.
- It is believed the contract workers are reluctant to join union activities and the number of permanent workers is reducing. Then how the unions will survive?
It is a wrong perception. The contract workers join union activities in large number. Rather they need unions more for their protection. They fight more aggressively than the permanent workers. It is also a true that when these contract workers go on strike the entire operations get paralysed in industries, because they are in high number and work in all departments. I feel, time is not so far when the owners will be forced to think for recruiting workers on regular basis.
- What do you expect from the new Union Government?
As a common man, workers too have high expectations. But the way government has started working, it is a matter of concern. All the policies, the Public Private Partnership, privatisation, outsourcing, etc. are against the interests of workers. The general budget does not give any healthy sign. We want total ban on disinvestment, minimum wage Rs 15000, minimum pension Rs 3000 linked to price index and strengthened labour department. We also want a common labour union recognition law for the entire country. In multiplicity of unions also there should be provision for proportionate representation as it is in the BSNL.
- It means the confrontation may increase with the government in coming days?
Definitely, if the government continues to promote privatisation and FDI even in key sectors like defence and railways.
- Why do you oppose FDI?
With the promotion of FDI there are conspiracies to relax labour laws, which ultimately lead to exploitation of workers. We want the government should come out with a white paper on FDI explaining both the inflow and outflow of money. If the government acts honestly, there is no dearth of funds in our own country. The government needs to win the trust of people.
- The BMS and those who are running the government come from the same ideology. Then why this confrontation?
The confrontation develops when the concerned group is not taken into confidence.
- As the organisation grows, some challenges grow too. What are those for BMS?
Being the largest labour organisation, the labourers expect we should resolve all of their issues. But this is not possible for any orgnisation. This is one of the biggest challenges. We also need new workers, who technically understand the labour field. It may take time and we are working in that direction.
- What has been planned for the celebration of 60th year?
We have decided to have at least one fulltime worker in all 643 districts. Today, we have only 148 workers. Therefore, we need at least 600 new workers. Since huge money is required to support the expansion of work, we also have decided to collect Rs 60 to 70 crore during this year. Apart from it, the number of unions also has to be increased from 5000 to 6000.