MOVEMENT FOR INDIA’S FINANCIAL INDEPENDENCE: MIFI campaigns on the Crisis Gripping the Financial Sector

Jose T Abraham

A JOINT meeting of leaders of various political parties, central trade unions, service organisations, trade unions and officers organisations in banking and insurance sectors, non-governmental organisations(NGO), women organisations, youth and student organisations etc., have decided to launch a movement against the grave crisis gripping the financial sector. The movement has been named as Movement for India’s Financial Independence (MIFI).

Pinarayi Vijayan, the chief minister of Kerala, inaugurated the national level campaign of MIFI on June 18 at Martyrs Column, Thiruvananthapuram. He stated that the banking sector crisis is a creation of central government and is a part of a conspiracy. The banking crisis could be attributed to the policy changes that forced banks to give long term loans for infrastructure projects. Pinarayi Vijayan said that while provisions of the Securitisation of Financial Assets and Enforcement of Securities Investment Act 2002, are being invoked against those availing small loans, the centre was unwilling to reveal the details of the corporates who are responsible for creating 84 percent of the non-performing assets (NPAs) amounting to  Rs 10 lakh crore. This is the biggest graft that post-independent India has seen. Recently the government waived NPAs amounting to Rs 2.41 lakh crore, but has not revealed the details of the beneficiaries. If the centre refuses to divulge the details of such wilful defaulters, they would again cheat the banks and also all corporates will remain in the shadow of doubt. The crisis would eventually destabilise public sector banks, lead to their privatisation and provide an opportunity for Indian and foreign corporates to wrest absolute control over the financial sector and also over Indian polity, he said.

Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee president MM Hassan said that there was an attempt to reverse the gains of the achievements of bank nationalisation. Only the Swatantra Party and the Jan Sangh had opposed it (the nationalisation of banks). The country witnessed a serious crisis during the past four years under the Modi regime. Social control over the financial sector was imperative for sustaining its independence and also the freedom of the country, he said.

Planning Board member KN Harilal, in his presidential address, said the corporates were forcing political parties to include bank privatisation in their election manifesto in 2019 and the movement is aimed at stemming the rot that is threatening the financial and political independence.

A Vijayaraghavan, LDF convenor and CPI leader Udayabhanu were among those who addressed the meeting.

JULY 19 MAHASATYAGRAHA 

A mahasatyagraha was held at Martyrs’ Column, Thiruvananthapuram on July 19, the 50th anniversary day of bank nationalisation. Thousands of people participated in the programme.  It was also attended Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, CPI(M) Kerala state secretary, and A Vijayaraghavan.

Many associated programmes were held in the city of Thiruvananthapuram as part of the Mahasatyagraha and 50th anniversary of bank nationalisation. BEFI district committee held a dharna in front of the Reserve Bank of India. This demonstration was inaugurated by B Iqbal.  Kerala NGO union conducted two big public meetings. Four organisations of bank pensioners jointly held a public meeting in front of the general post office. AIBOC held a public meeting. AIBEA organised street dharnas in various parts of the city. NCBE and LICEU held seminars on insurance sector. Organisations like Kerala Sastra Sahitya Parishad (KSSP), Purogamana Kala Sahitya Sangham (Pu Ka Sa) conducted street dramas and cultural activities. All the programmes were well attended and well received by the public.

A preparatory meeting for MIFI was held on May 3, at Thiruvananthapuram. The meeting was inaugurated by Anathalavattomanandan. He called for a national level resistance to force the centre for a policy reversal. Harilal, Kerala Planning Board member in his presidential address indicated that the NPAs in banking sector is alarming and is indicative of a crisis in the offing. The present attempt is to convert corporate deficit into bank deficit. Banking and insurance sectors survived the global recession a decade ago mainly due to their strength and confidence reposed in them by the public. Prof Praveen Jha (JNU) during the occasion said the evolving movement should challenge finance capital that had emerged as a powerful actor without any link to production. The root of the crisis could be traced to the rise of financial capital which is basically speculative.

AITUC leader K P Rajendran said that the movement should not be confined to the academic circles and should comprise people from all sections. Academicians, leaders of various political parties, leaders of central TUs , service organisations, NGOs, banking and insurance sector TUs participated in the meeting.

An organising committee for MIFI was formed with Kodiyeri  Balakrishnan, MM Hassan and Kanam Rajendran CPI Kerala secretary as chief patrons. K N Harilal was designated as the convenor.

The slogans put forward by MIFI are that the Government of India has a duty to protect the public sector institutions and they should declare it unequivocally. Political parties should include in their manifesto for 2019 parliament elections that they will protect the public sector financial institutions. The manifestos must contain, “The financial independence of the country will be given priority over the freedom and free movement of finance capital. Strict control will be imposed on speculative capital and its operations. The financial sector reforms undertaken after unleashing neo liberalism will be reviewed and advances to real priority sectors and agriculture shall be ensured. The list of big defaulters of bank loans will be published and they should be brought before law. The recovery of big defaulted loans of industrialists will be undertaken from their personal wealth too. Security of bank deposits shall be ensured and reasonable interest be given to the depositors. Exorbitant service charges would be dispensed with.”

WORKSHOP AND PUBLIC MEETING

A workshop on the financial sector issues and the purpose and programmes of MIFI was conducted at VJT hall Thiruvananthapuram on June 1. The workshop was led by Prabhat Patnaik.  Nandakumar (president, BEFI), C H Venkitachalam (general secretary, AIBEA) made presentations in the workshop. Prabhat Patnaik made a presentation on economics of banking crisis. He mentioned that the control of banking sector should be with the Indian parliament. It should not be surrendered to international and Indian private sector. Many participants actively took part in the discussions that followed.

In the evening of June 1, a public meeting was held at VJT Hall, which was attended by Thomas Isaac, finance minister of Kerala, Anathalavattom Anandan president-CITU Kerala, R Chandrasekharan president- INTUC Kerala, Jameela Prakasom, ex-MLA. Thomas Isaac in his presentation said that if the self-reliance and independence of Indian financial sector is lost, it will face the experience of Greece. A country which surrenders the independence of financial sector cannot bargain any terms with other countries or international finance capital, he exhorted.

A special discussion on banking crisis was held on June 27, at Thiruvananthapuram. The discussion was attended by Thomas Isaac and many other noted personalities in the fields of arts, literature, media, academics, leaders of NGOs. In his opening remarks, Thomas Issac told that privatisation of public sector banks is not a solution for skyrocketing NPAs. By keeping the public sector character of Indian banking sector only the developmental activities can be carried out. There should be public pressure to keep the financial sector under public ownership. M A  Oommen,  K P Kannan, Meera Velayudhan, Iqbal, George Onakkoor, M G Radhakrishnan, Mary George, C P Nair, and many others participated in the discussion.

MIFI is planning to have further programmes at Kozhikode, Chennai, Delhi and other parts as part of its national level campaign.

 

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