December 22, 2013

Extensive Campaign against Insurance Laws (Amendment) Bill

N Suresh Kumar

INSURANCE employees under the banner of South Zone Insurance Employees’ Federation (SZIEF) met five lakh people in the state of Tamilnadu on one single day on 11th December. This was as part of the struggle against attempts to raise foreign direct investment cap in insurance sector from existing 26 per cent to 49 per cent, and to destabilise the public sector General Insurance companies through disinvestment. All these have been proposed in the Insurance Laws (Amendment) Bill that is before parliament now. The insurance employees of Tamilnadu aptly chose December 11 - the birth anniversary of Mahakavi Bharathi, a national and progressive poet who dedicated his life in the struggle against the British imperialism - for enlisting public support for their campaign and struggle. More than 2500 employees, including women, met the mass of the people in 300 centers and distributed leaflets in all the crowded places like railway stations, bus stands, temples, bazaars etc. They discussed with the public about the dangerous contents in the Bill. In more than 100 centers, this movement was held in the form of street corner meetings. Many other forms like people’s courts, mega banner public signature campaign, two wheeler rallies etc, were also used in the process to reach the public. This apart, during the last 20 days, the Insurance employees of Tamilnadu and Kerala, along with the field force, agents and officers met 104 prominent political leaders at the national and state levels. The list includes one chief minister - N Rengaswamy, Puduchery, 7 central ministers including finance minister P Chidambaram, 14 state ministers, 46 MPs, 2 Mayors and 17 MLAs. They also met state level presidents/secretaries of the political parties in Tamilnadu – CPI(M), CPI, Congress, BJP, DMK, VCK, MMK, and sought their support. Almost all the leaders they met – except P Chidambaram – personally agreed with the insurance employees’ appeal to protect the public sector insurance, and assured to extend their support to it. STATE LEVEL CONVENTIONS Two state level conventions, one at Ernakulam on 1st December, and the other at Madurai on 7th December, were conducted with massive participation. Many such conventions at the district level and divisional level also were conducted during this period. In the convention held at Madurai, senior CPI(M) leader and MP, T K Rengarajan delivered the special address. While he congratulated the insurance employees for their relentless struggle against the insurance reforms, he exhorted them to continue and strengthen the struggle for alternative policies which alone would ensure the protection of the public sector insurance. He reminded the convention of the protest by the Left, especially the CPI(M), during the introduction of the Insurance Laws (Amendment) Bill 2008. He said that such an effective protest was possible inside the parliament only because of the powerful movement that was built around the nation under the aegis of the All India Insurance Employees’ Association (AIIEA); it was simply an echo of the voices of the insurance employees on the streets of the country. In the last parliament, Left parties had 62 MPs in the Lok Sabha and 17 MPs in Rajya Sabha and they could do more in this regard. Therefore, the workers’ movement has to do everything it takes to enhance level of the presence of the Left in the parliament, he appealed. The immediate need of the hour was to broaden the struggle to expose the pernicious designs of the international finance capital, and mobilise more and more people towards pro-people alternative policies. He assured that Left parties would continue to take up the cause of the protection of the public sector insurance. R Annadurai, CPI(M) MLA from Madurai South constituency, also addressed the convention. The convention was wound up by K Swaminathan, general secretary of the South Zone Insurance Employees’ Federation. The convention, which was well attended by more than 1000 employees from all parts of the state, demanded through a resolution that the government of India drop the proposals for FDI hike in insurance sector, and desist from disinvestment of public sector General Insurance. The convention also appealed to all segments of the insurance employees to make the one day strike - if ever the Bill is passed - a grand success; the AIIEA has given the call for this strike. The convention expressed its firm resolve to carry forward the struggle through every conceivable means, involving the policy holders and the common public to save the public sector insurance sector, and thereby the welfare of the nation and its economy.