Saturday, October 1, 2022

The missing solidarity at BPCL privatisation protest at Jantar Mantar

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New Delhi: Even though the nationwide turnout at the protest against BPCL privatisation was around 20,000, the scene in the capital city’s Jantar Mantar portrayed a fractured picture. At New Delhi’s agitation epicentre, there were two separate protests at a few metres from each other. One was being organised by BPCL employees against the refiner’s own privatisation, the other was being held by AAI against the privatisation of its airports. And despite being united by their cause and the location and the date, the two kept a comfortable distance from each other, shying away from displaying unity against the government’s policy which they have been trying to oppose.

The missing solidarity at BPCL privatisation protest in New Delhi

The issue was taken up by Aam Aadmi Party’s Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Singh as soon as he took the dais. Exhorting BPCL employees to find common cause with employees of other PSUs that the government is slated to take up for privatisation, Singh urged the gathering to organise a jan andolan (mass movement) against privatisation. He said, “Agitating in small groups and for our own organisations is not something that will move the power centre that’s bent on selling off the country’s assets. So, I urge you to come together with other PSUs, like CONCOR, GAIL, Railway coach factories, wherever privatisation is slated to happen, and start a jan andolan. A jan andolan so huge that it can no more be ignored by those in power.”

Alt= Employees hold placards at a protest organised by AAI against the privatisation of its airports at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi on Friday.

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Congress’ Udit Raj echoes the same

Speaking at the protest organised by AAI against privatisation of airports, Congress leader Udit Raj said, “We are not able to stop the government on pursuing its privatisation plan because we are doing it alone. So, unless the unions, associations and federations in the public sector come together along with lakhs of employees on streets, I don’t think much is going to change. Therefore, let us make sure that we gather on December 1 at Ramleela Maidan in big numbers. And since these jobs have been supporting the families, bring your families along with you.”

What do the unions say?

On being asked about the two separate protests on the same cause, Brijmohan, General Secretary of Petroleum Employees’ Union (Northern region), said, “This was the first big protest in the oil sector. Going forward, we are going to reach out to other PSUs which are slated for privatisation. And like the MPs here said, we are going to turn this into a Jan Andolan.” He added that this time BPCL was joined by CONCOR employees too, but the effort would be to reach out to unions of other PSUs as well next time.

(PSU Watch– India's Business News centre that places the spotlight on PSUs, Bureaucracy, Defence and Public Policy is now on Telegram. Join PSU Watch Channel in your Telegram and stay updated)

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