New Economic Policy of 1991
1991 was a turning point in the modern history of the country, but not for all the right reasons. For the first time an economic policy to liberalise the Indian economy and pave the way for it’s interaction with the global economy, was unleashed. The New Economic Policy announced on July 24th 1991 by the Congress Government included structural adjustment measures including the devaluation of rupee, increase in interest rates, reduction in public investment and expenditure, reduction in public sector food and fertilizer subsidies, increase in imports and foreign investment in capital intensive and high-tech activities.
While introducing the New economic policy the Govt. presented a very rosy picture depicting the human face factor and emphasizing that the new economy will be a boon to the unorganized sector bringing more jobs and opportunities. The unorganized sector constitutes around 93% of the total working population of the nation. The Govt. tried to garner the support of this vital sector. It was simply a policy against the organized sector with the emotional support of unorganized sector. Organised trade union movement in India unfortunately is divided on political lines and hence it could not counter the Govt move effectively. The other feature of our organized Trade Union movement is to oppose every initiative undertaken by the Government so when the Govt. initiated disinvestment in loss making enterprises some trade unions opposed and demanded that the cost be borne by the Govt. Similarly when 2nd National Labour Commission was appointed some trade unions opposed and did not fill the questionnaire. HMS took a positive approach, projected its objections on the terms of reference etc. but filled up the questionnaire.
Had the organized sector trade union movement jointly organized Seminars/discussions/Debates/Public meetings on the merit and demerits of New policy it could have created public awareness and support and we would have been able to counter in a better way.
The new economic policies of liberalization, privatization and globalization initiated then have since been followed by all subsequent governments. Both the United Front and BJP led Govts, irrespective of their pre-electoral promises. This has also meant withdrawal of government support to Public Sector activities. All these have caused much problems for the workers and trade unions as industrial closures and privatization process has gathered pace. The unemployment situation has worsened and exerted tremendous pressure and trade unions all over the country have been fighting with their backs to the wall.
Hind Mazdoor Sabha submitted policy paper on agenda of 30th ILC held on 7-8 September 1992 drawing attention towards status of women workers. United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (Earth submit or Rio Conference) took stock of environmental problems and expected positive propaganda by all stake holders. Hind Mazdoor Sabha took the challenge and conducted awareness programmes at National and Regional levels in June 1992. Under Hind Mazdoor Sabha Research and Training Programme HMS published around one dozen documents, to mention a few, New Economic Policy and Women, Employees New Pension Scheme, Goswami Committee Report, Fact file of PSU, Social Dimensions of Structural adjustment programme in India, Economic Review 1991-92, 92-1993. Hind Mazdoor Sabha opposed. IISCO privatization, wrote a letter to Prime Minister requesting him to provide Trade Unions an opportunity to be heard before taking any final decision. Save IISCO Committee comprising of HMS, AITUC, BMS, CITU, INTUC and Officers Associations working in IISCO met in New Delhi on 13.4.1998 and pressed their demand. HMS played a vital role in the process. Hind Mazdoor Sabha affiliates observed awareness week against adverse effect of National Economic policy during 1st to 7th June 1994.
Meanwhile the Fifth Pay Commission submitted it’s report in 1997. HMS affiliates opposed certain provisions which might lead to cut in take home pay of employees. Some anomalies were resolved to the satisfaction of employees.
A number of HMS affiliate celebrated their Jubilee during ninetees. The National Union of Seafarers of India (NUSI) celebrated its centenary. Western Railway Employees Union (WREU) observed it’s platinum Jubilee in 1995, the Birth centenary of Com.Sibnath Banerjee, founder member and President of HMS was celebrated in 1997. BPT Employees Union, Mumbai celebrated it’s 75 years in 1997. Coimbatore District Textile Workers Union celebrated it’s Diamond Jubilee in 1998. Coal Field Mazdoor Union (CMU) celebrated it’s Golden Jubilee on 4th July 1999 at Raigarh (District Hazaribagh). Mill Mazdoor Sabha of Mumbai celebrated it’s Golden Jubilee in October 1997. ILO also celebrated it’s 75th Anniversary in 1994. International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) celebrated it’s centenary in 1996. All India Railwaymen’s Federation also celebrated it’s platinum Jubilee at Lucknow in November 1999.
Com.Umraomal Purohit was elected President of International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) in 1998 at it’s World Congress in New Delhi which was a matter of pride not only for the HMS but the entire trade union movement.
In May 1999 the Government set up the 2nd National Commission for Labour (NCL) to address various issues related to and affecting labour on account of liberalization and globalisation. While many central unions opposed and did not fill the Questionnaire, Hind Mazdoor Sabha took a constructive approach, projected its objections on the terms of reference etc. but filled up and replied the Questionnaire.