Employees of several Public Sector Units (PSU) and Public Sector Banks (PSB) based in Bengaluru took out a rally on Tuesday in protest against the Union government’s proposed privatization plan. The protesters marched from the Krantivira Sangolli Rayanna or KSR Railway Station to Freedom Park in Bengaluru. The protest was organised by the Forum Against Privatisation, consisting of workers’ unions of several PSUs.
Employees of PSUs such as Bharat Earth Movers Limited (BEML), Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited (BHEL), Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL), Visvesvaraya Iron and Steel Limited (VSIL) took part in the rally. They demanded that the Union government scrap its proposal to privatise public sector units and public sector banks.
BEML workers, who participated in huge numbers, alleged that the privatisation process had started and that they worry their jobs will be at risk if privatised. “The government has taken steps to privatise BEML, which is a profitable company. We have also supplied equipment to the defence industry. From February 16, we have been protesting in Kolar and now we are here in Bengaluru to protest this move,” said Ramachandra Reddy, Vice president, BEML Labours’ Union, Kolar Gold Field (KGF).
The public sector bank employees also feared a similar fate and joined the protest. The public bank employees in Bengaluru have been on strike since Monday in protest against the privatisation and mergers of banks.
Several public sector banking unions were on a two-day strike in several parts of the country to protest against the privatisation proposal. The strike ended on Tuesday. In the 2021-22 budget speech, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had proposed privatising two more public sector banks (PSBs). Over the last four years, over 14 PSBs were merged. In 2019, Life Insurance Corporation (LIC) acquired 51% of the controlling stake in IDBI Bank, recategorising the bank as a private sector bank.
“In the Budget, the Union government said that it will merge two more banks but hasn’t revealed which are these banks. The nationalised banks have grown very well today and in the initial phase, they are merging banks. In the next phase, they intend to hand it over to private players instead of using it for the development of the country or by using it to strengthen farming and local industries,” alleged Nagaraj Shanbhog, Joint Secretary, Bank Employees Federation of India, Karnataka chapter
“The resources of the public sector banks belong to the people of the country. It is created with people’s money and handing it over to a private player is not acceptable and we won’t let it happen,” he added.
The workers intend to put pressure on the state government, and in turn, the Union government, to pass a resolution against the privatisation of PSUs.
In order to do this, the forum invited former Chief Minister and leader of Opposition, Siddaramaiah to the rally, so that he could raise the concerns of the workers in the state Assembly and accordingly pass a resolution.