The Guardian February 23, 2000


India:
Actions against privatisation

The Indian working class "has moved into action in a massive way in 
defence of India's economic sovereignty and self-reliance" (People's 
Democracy, January 30, 2000).

Huge strike actions have been taking place lately.

Around 82,000 Uttar Pradesh state electricity workers took part in a strike 
against the state government's move to split the Uttar Pradesh State 
Electricity Board into three corporations as a first step to its 
privatisation.

The electricity workers and engineers were not fighting for any economic 
advantages for themselves but were concerned about the threat to national 
interests if privatisation were to go ahead.

The focus was on the anti-people, pro-big business agenda of the Indian 
Government.

The Government is determined to implement the so-called "reforms" being 
imposed by the World Bank for the benefit of overseas and local big 
business.

The Government's response to the electricity workers' strike was brutal 
suppression.

More than 10,000 workers and engineers were arrested, and military 
engineering personnel were deployed to man power stations.

Workers' families were terrorised and water and electricity supplies to 
their homes were cut.

Reports from various districts described police and army actions against 
workers' families  they were made to stand in the open in severely cold 
weather.

Trade union officers were raided and papers and documents removed.

Solidarity actions took place all over the country and tremendously boosted 
the morale of the striking workers. As a result of the strike the 
Government has agreed to defer its move to privatisation.

Other protests

Electricity workers were not the only ones to protest against government 
policies.

Port and dock worker protests against new hardships being imposed on them 
by current economic policies virtually paralysed activity in all Indian 
ports.

Indian Airlines is the latest victim of proposed privatisation. It is the 
only public sector airline which has a national network. Once again, 
national interests are being sacrificed for private gain.

The National Platform of Mass Organisations (NPMO) which consists of the 
seven central trade unions, industrial and employees' federations, and 
organisations of peasants, agricultural workers, students, women, 
professionals of various affiliations held a national convention at the end 
of January.

The NPMO unanimously adopted an action program which among other things 
calls for a huge rally of mass organisations before parliament on March 9, 
2000.

The organisation expects about one million people to take part in the 
rally.

The NPMO convention appealed "to all patriotic and democratic sections of 
people from all walks of life irrespective of affiliation, to join the 
initiative and program of NPMO en mass, to cry halt to the anti-national 
policies of the government and save the country's economy and its people 
from disaster".

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