AIIEA Holds Conference: Challenging the Challenges

V Ramesh

THE All India Insurance Employees Association (AIIEA), organised its 23rd general conference at Nagpur from January 20 to 24, 2014. While the historic city of Nagpur has been home to many a progressive movement, the AIIEA conference added yet another glorious chapter to the history of this great city. The conference met in the background of tremendous achievements secured by the organisation in the last three years. It was said that the organisation which had set before itself impossible tasks at its 22nd general conference at New Delhi; however, the AIIEA achieved each of them with great success and flair.

The 23rd general conference met at a difficult time in the economic, social and cultural life of the nation. But buoyed by the successes achieved, more than 1600 delegates and observers assembled to formulate the line and tactics of the organisation on various issues confronting the insurance employees and the nation with absolute confidence. A record number of 251 women delegates and observers participated in this conference.

Eight jathas were taken out by the Maharashtra and Gujarat state units of the AIIEA in order to take the message of the organisation across the two states. These jathas were received and greeted by the leadership of the AIIEA and Western Zone Insurance Employees Association (WZIEA), a constituent of the AIIEA, at Nagpur in the morning of January 20, 2014.

Preceding the formal inauguration of the conference, a 5,000 strong procession was taken out in the city. The procession passed through the busy thoroughfares, raising slogans on issues relating to price rise, unemployment, against neo-liberal policies and for the unity of the people. The disciplined march and the slogans raised made the people along the route feel that these are their issues and they enthusiastically greeted the procession. The procession was also greeted by a number of trade unions and progressive organisations en route in a magnificent display of solidarity. As the procession reached the venue of the conference, AIIEA president Amanulla Khan unfurled the hoisted of the organisation, amid emotional slogans raised by those present. Floral tributes were paid to the martyrs thereafter.

The conference was inaugurated by CPI(M) Polit Bureau member Sitaram Yechury, MP, who recalled his long association with the AIIEA and said he feels like an honorary member of the AIIEA. He paid rich compliments to the struggles of the AIIEA and the successes achieved by the organisation in preventing the privatisation of public sector insurance industry and halting the move to hike the FDI limits. He pointed out that the country is in a deep economic crisis as a result of mindless pursuit of neo-liberal policies. These policies have devastated the life and living of the common people and have made India one of the most unequal societies. Lambasting these policies that led to huge corruption scams, Yechury pointed out that the amount lost in these scams was sufficient to educate the children, provide basic health services and ensure food security to the entire nation. He pointed out that the 2014 general elections are critical for the future of the nation. There is a concerted effort to build opinion that this country has to choose between Modi and Rahul Gandhi but, he forcefully pointed out, both are the votaries of liberalisation. The Congress and the BJP have no differences over economic policies. He also expressed concern over the growing incidents of communal violence and warned the working class that this is a direct attack on their unity. Yechury said India today needs alternative economic policies that can bring some relief to the common people from the gruelling miseries. He expressed confidence that AIIEA members would play their due role in projecting alternative policies in the run up to the 2014 general elections and also work to defend our national unity.

Dutta Moghe (MP and a former employee of the Life Insurance Corporation), M Krishnan (general secretary, National Confederation of Central Government Employees’ and Workers), R Muthusundaram (general secretary, All India State Government Employees’ Federation) and P Abhimanyu (general secretary, BSNL Employees’ Union) greeted the conference.

The delegates session commenced on January 21, with the general secretary presenting the report of the working committee. The report exhaustively dealt with the important developments that took place in the last three years in the international and national arenas, stressing that a correct analysis and understanding of these developments are necessary to lead the movement to success. The report also analysed the challenges confronting the insurance industry, and the contribution of the AIIEA’s movement to help the LIC retain the market dominance and public sector general insurance companies to continue to record impressive growth. The success achieved by the AIIEA about absorption of nearly 5,000 temporary employees into permanent services in the Class IV cadre; the upgradation of the RPT employees and the forcing open of recruitment in general insurance in a most difficult political situation --- these should be utilised to consolidate and strengthen the organisation. The Report also dealt with the advancements made on many monetary issues including the relief brought to the pensioners.

The lively debate on the report lasted for over 13 hours, with 51 delegates including eight women making their respective contributions. The session was also addressed by Tapan Sen, MP and general secretary of the Centre of Indian Trade Unions. BEFI general secretary Pradip Biswas and K Natarajan, general secretary of the All India Insurance Pensioners’ Association, also addressed the delegates. AIIEA president Amanulla Khan guided the course of the deliberations. One of the founder leaders of AIIEA, Chandrasekhar Bose, attended the conference on all the five days and addressed the conference which was a poignant moment for the delegates and observers.

The report was unanimously approved after AIIEA general secretary K Venu Gopal summed up of the debate.

The conference unanimously adopted some resolutions: demanding reversal of the neo-liberal policies; for communal harmony and against communalism; demanding withdrawal of Insurance Laws (Amendment) Bill 2008; demanding merger of the public sector general insurance companies; on collective bargaining right; on the government policy on pension; on unorganised sector workers; on empowerment of SC/ST sections, on empowerment of women; and demanding restoration of democracy in West Bengal

Through another significant resolution, the conference expressed solidarity with the people of Palestine, as the year 2014 has been declared by the UN as year of solidarity with the Palestinean people.

The conference decided to continue the campaign in defence of the public sector insurance industry without any let-up. The AIIEA would approach political leaders, public representatives and eminent personalities in the run-up to the elections in order to solicit support for its struggle against the Insurance Laws (Amendment) Bill. It would also build a campaign and forge struggle on the issue of merger of public sector general insurance companies, an would organise conventions and seminars on this issue.

The conference asked the AIIE members to prepare for a bitter struggle to secure the legitimate demand for wage revision on the basis of the performance of the industry. They must also fight for the demand for another option on pension and seek improvements in the 1995 pension scheme.

The conference stood in favour of a campaign for reversal of neo-liberalism and for alternative policies. This has to be done urgently as the nation gears up for the 2014 general elections. The conference asked all the AIIEA units to take initiative in building broad social alliances for the campaign that social services like education, health and water etc must remain under public control.

The conference elected a new working committee of 168 members. The team will be led by Amanulla Khan (Bengaluru) as president, V Ramesh (Hyderabad) as general secretary and B S Ravi (Hyderabad) as treasurer. KVVSN Raju (Hyderabad) was elected secretary of the Standing Committee (General Insurance).

An important feature of the conference was the election of a woman, M Girija (Coimbatore), as the AIIEA joint secretary.

The Nagpur unit of the LIC Employees Union and the WZIEA made all-out efforts for the successful conduct of the conference. Nearly 400 volunteers worked tirelessly for months to make the necessary arrangements and take care of the logistics. The conference witnessed tremendous enthusiasm and confidence, which emboldened it call for “challenge the challenges.”

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