AIRBEA Holds 31st Conference
THE All India Reserve Bank Employees Association (AIRBEA) held its 31st conference in Kolkata on December 6 to 8, 2013. It was almost half a century ago, in 1966, when an AIRBEA conference was last held in Kolkata. The host unit rose to the occasion magnificently and extended to the delegates and guests a warm and cordial reception and hospitality. Apart from aesthetic decorations and illumination, it organised fascinating cultural presentations which won the hearts of one and all. As the guest of honour, Tripura chief minister Manik Sarkar, suddenly got indisposed, Basudeb Acharia inaugurated the conference on December 6 evening, speaking about the prevalent situation and the plight of the poor, of the unorganised workers and peasants, urging upon Reserve Bank employees to be part of the broader movement. He appreciated the AIRBEA efforts to defend the central bank’s autonomy and the country’s economic sovereignty. Earlier, Rupchand Pal, chairman of reception committee, welcomed the delegates, narrating the glorious history of the city of Kolkata in culture, science, education, freedom struggle and working class struggles. After the AIRBEA general secretary Samir Ghosh welcomed the assembly, hoping that they would discharge their responsibilities to the nation, chief guest Dr Subir Gokarn, economist and former deputy governor of RBI, talked about his experience of working in the RBI and its crucial role in Indian economy. M V Murali, convener of United Forum of Bank Unions and General secretary of NCBE, spoke about the dangers facing the Indian public sector banking and the determined united fight by a million strong bank employees and officers. On December 7 morning, after the general secretary hoisted the AIRBEA flag in the RBI Staff Quarters ground at Salt Lake, delegates and guests offered floral tributes at the Martyr’s Column. They also paid homage to Nelson Mandela, legendary leader of the anti-Apartheid movement. About 150 delegates and observers took part in the conference. While G C Kirtikar, former minister of Maharashtra, greeted the delegates session, RBI executive director R Gandhi inaugurated it with a thought-provoking speech about the future shape of RBI with more responsible and knowledgeable frontline cadre, each having a special role. He stressed that RBI employees must know what is happening at the grassroots level, in the villages in particular, to understand and contribute to the RBI’s role and functioning. On the RBI’s behalf he assured to discuss their charter of demands soon. AIRBWF general secretary S V Mahadik, AIRBOA general secretary C M Paulsil and RBIOA general secretary R N Vatsa also spoke, emphasising the RBI’s autonomy and criticising the recommendations of Financial Services Legislative Reforms Commission (FSLRC). They also opposed the RBI’s proposed move for “lateral induction” from outside in all senior cadres. AIRBEA general secretary thanked them all for bringing the message of unity to the conference, saying that united struggle on common issues and demands is the path for the future. Messages received from RBI governor Dr Raghuram Rajan, WFTU, CITU, HMS, Central Government Employees Confederation, UTUC and TUCC etc were read out. The general secretary’s report assured that the AIRBEA would be steadfastly following the path of struggle. He paid special tributes to Comrades Jyoti Basu and M K Pandhe for their support to RBI employees’ movement in critical times. Speaking for nearly two hours, he narrated the developments which have a direct bearing on the RBI, the fierce attacks on the AIRBEA threatening its very existence. He said for the last few years “we had to plunge into an unprecedented battle for our survival.” But “we lost the numbers, not the spirit,” and holding of the 31st conference with enthusiasm clearly shows that the machinations to finish the AIRBEA have not succeeded. He said our numerical strength has come down, which demands that our activities and our living contacts with members must increase manifold. We have also to introspect on our weaknesses and vulnerabilities, and overcome them. The evening session on December 7 heard two important leaders of the bank employees’ movement --- AIBEA president Rajen Nagar and BEFI president K Ramesh Babu. Both elaborated the situation in the banking industry, stressing the need for united struggles of bank employees to defend the public sector banking, protect the employees and serve the mass of the people. They pledged support to RBI employees’ movement to “save the RBI,” for the sake of overall improvement and protection of nationalised banking sector and national economy. About 40 delegates participated in the discussion on the report. These included three veteran comrades who were among the special invitees, viz, V V Asai (Nagpur), M L Malkotia (New Delhi) and Praful Desai (Mumbai), who gave valuable suggestions. A few fresh entrants also addressed the delegates session. They were warmly welcomed and they assured total participation of new entrants in the association’s activities, stating, inter alia, that new entry has been possible in RBI after two decades only because of sustained efforts of the AIRBEA. The conference endorsed the report, pledging to carry forward the tasks decided by the conference. Suggestions to strengthen the association activities were duly noted. Secretary cum treasurer placed Sudipta Saha Ray the audited accounts of the AIRBEA up to December 31, 2012; this was unanimously accepted. He also placed the report of the credentials committee. The conference adopted resolutions on anti-people economic and labour reform policy of the government, on shrinkage of the RBI, on opposing the FSLRC recommendations, and for united struggle against privatisation of public sector banks. The general secretary proposed and secretary A Govindsamy seconded the amendments to the AIRBEA constitution and rules. These related to 1) revised rate of subscription with effect from January 1, 2012; 2) ratio of delegates to the valid membership from each unit; 3) composition of all-India officer bearers; 4) constitution of the central executive committee of AIRBEA and 5) constitution of the general council of AIRBEA. The conference unanimously accepted the amendments and decided to implement these for the future. The conference elected a 20 member general council plus Debashis Bhattacharya as special invitee, and a 17 member CEC plus two special invitees. A N Subhedar, A Gobindsamy and Samir Ghosh will lead the AIRBEA office bearers team as president, working president and general secretary respectively. They will be assisted by three vice presidents and six secretaries. Sudipta Saha Ray, one of the secretaries, will function as the treasurer as well. G C Kiritkar and T K Thanachan are the advisors. The valedictory function on January 8 evening was presided over by B P Kanungo, regional director of the RBI in Kolkata, who greeted the delegates and others, thanked the AIRBEA’s Kolkata unit for hosting the conference in an excellent manner and reminded the audience of their responsibilities to make the RBI responsive to the needs of the common people for whom it was set up. The Kolkata unit presented a cultural collage “We are not alone” comprising some folk arts of Bengal, like drum beating, playing with bamboo sticks, Baul songs, etc, along with classical dances, songs and a small dramatic presentation on the theme of humanity over community. It was eulogised by all.