Thursday, December 20, 2012
Friday, August 27, 2010
Following is the Declaration adopted at the National Convention of Workers
Representatives of Central Trade Unions and Workers and Employees’ Federations having assembled in the 2nd National Convention of the Workers on the 15th July, 2010, reviewed the joint action programme over five commonly agreed demands as decided in the first historic Convention of Workers on 14th September, 2009. This Convention considering the review of joint actions, ALL INDIA PROTEST DAY on 28th October, 2009, Massive Dharna on 16th December, 2009 and Satyagraha/Jail Bharo on 5th March 2010 - Ten lakh workers participated and also considering the situation arising thereafter adopts the following DECLARATION.
Despite the trade unions demanding effective steps to curb price rise, particularly food price inflation, food prices escalating as high as 17 per cent, inflation rising to double-digit, government continued to remain totally unresponsive to mitigate the deep sufferings of the working people;
Despite the trade unions expressing deep concern at the uninterrupted violation of labour laws and trade union rights, situation becoming grim and repressive every day;
Despite trade unions protesting against job loss, underpayment, unbearable living condition, increasing working hours, rampant contractorisation, casualisation and outsourcing, nothing is being done to prevent the declining living condition and inhuman exploitation of working masses;
Despite the trade unions opposing the disinvestment in the profit making public sector, the latest disinvestment being pushed through in Coal India Ltd., BSNL, SAIL, NLC, Hindustan Copper, NMDC etc., the pernicious policy of reckless disinvestment is continuing with impunity;
Despite the trade unions earnestly asking for the setting up of a massive welfare fund for universal comprehensive social security coverage for the unorganized sector workers without any restriction, the fund allocation remained nominal and restrictive provisions continued.
The Convention notes with concern, not only protest of the trade unions is being ignored, the policy that accentuates increase in the prices of food grains is being constantly bulldozed, the latest is the deregulation of petroleum pricing linking with the international market leading to hefty increase in the prices of kerosene, cooking gas, diesel and petrol.
The convention reiterates the unanimously formulated demands once again as under:
# Price rise of essential commodities to be contained through appropriate corrective and distributive measures like universal PDS and containing speculation in commodity market.
# Concrete proactive measures to be taken for linkage of employment protection in the recession stricken sectors with the stimulus package being offered to the concerned entrepreneurs and for augmenting public investment in infrastructure
# Strict enforcement of all basic labour laws without any exception or exemption and stringent punitive measures for violation of labour laws
# Steps to be taken for removal of all restrictive provisions based on poverty line in respect of eligibility of coverage of the schemes under the Unorganised Workers Social Security Act 2008 and creation of National Fund for the Unorganised Sector to provide for a National Floor Level Social Security to all unorganized workers including the contract/casual workers in line with the recommendation of National Commission on Enterprises in Unorganised Sector and Parliamentary Standing Committee on Labour
# Disinvestment of shares of Central Public Sector Enterprises (CPSEs) is not resorted to for meeting budgetary deficit and instead their growing reserve and surplus is used for expansion and modernization purposes and also for revival of sick Public Sector Undertakings.
This National Convention of Workers, while exercising its constitutional and democratic right seeks to further its legitimate protest and call for immediate correction of the patently wrong policies that dangerously hurt the interests of the working people and the society as a whole, and to give vent to the feeling of the growing indignation of the working people.
The Convention, therefore, resolves to call for an All India General Strike on 7th September, 2010.
The Convention calls upon the entire working people of the country, irrespective of affiliations to make the all in united call for countrywide general strike a total success. If the government does not concede the demands the trade unions will intensify the struggle further and prepare for a March to Parliament.
Tuesday, July 13, 2010
The Union government has introduced on July 01, 2010 a service tax of 10.3% on every claim made using the cashless facility. On the same day insurance companies have curtailed the cashless mediclaim facility by drastically reducing the number of eligible hospitals which move has already had the instant impact of bringing cashless mediclaim transactions to a virtual standstill in metros. But the Central Government’s move to introduce service tax on every cashless mediclaim settled has paradoxically gone unnoticed.
According to Jaslok Hospital CEO Colonel M Masand, the head of the Association of Hospitals, ‘the service charge component would not be visible to consumers as it was a sum that would be paid by TPAs to hospitals after every cashless transaction.’ If that be so, for an approval of cashless facility for a particular patient for treatment costing one lakh rupees, they have to pay Rs.10,300/- as service tax to the hospital. But will the TPAs shell out such a huge amount on service tax from its kitty without burdening the policyholders, particularly when they are already feeling the heat due to heavy outflow of cash under cashless mediclaim settlement due to which reason the insurers have curtailed the number of hospitals eligible for cashless mediclaim facility?
So, as is their wont, they may opt for the easiest route to cushion this shock by passing on this ‘extra burden’ on to the shoulders of the policyholders. For doing this, they may examine three options. One, they may incorporate a rider in the policy conditions by specifying cashless facility as ‘a facility that excludes service tax.’ But incorporating a rider after issuing a policy may not stand the legal scrutiny. Nevertheless, by taking a leaf out of Bhopal Gas Tragedy case which is still dragging on even after twenty six years, some may approve of this option as a temporary measure to overcome the burden before finding a permanent solution.
If there are no takers for the first option, as a second one, they may increase the premium for the mediclaim policy with cashless facility. As mentioned earlier, the service tax payable for a treatment costing one lakh rupees is Rs.10,300/-. For a mediclaim policy worth of one lakh rupees, they may charge an additional premium for this additional amount of Rs.10,300/- to cover the extra burden. But this again will invite public wrath and a possible danger of people opting out of cashless facility for their mediclaim policy. Still, with such people form only a motley group, companies may not mind the outcry and carry on with increasing the premium.
If they do not want to attract any public anger and avoid litigations, they may resort to try the third and silent option which may be termed as ‘compressor or squeezer method.’ By opting to this method they need neither to increase the premium nor to pass on the burden on to the shoulders of the policyholders, but instead they can silently club together the service tax and the treatment cost into a single liability and thereby reducing the actual treatment coverage of the policy by 10.3%. In other words, a policyholder who holds a mediclaim policy with an option of cashless facility for a sum assured of one lakh, can actually avail cashless treatment for only up to Rs.90662/- and the balance of Rs.9338/- will be adjusted towards service tax and thereby the entire sum assured will be exhausted. In all likelihood the companies may prefer this silent method as most of the policyholders may not even come to know of this hidden cost unless it is explained by others or studied by themselves or observed from the hospital bill after treatment.
Above all these, there is another danger also lying ahead. The Central Government’s present move to widen the Service Tax net is aimed only at the mediclaim policies with cashless facility alone leaving the other regular mediclaim policyholders who go in for reimbursement after treatment, which may be viewed as discriminatory and opposed and may even be challenged. When the shouts of opposition grow louder, the Government may be left with only two options, either to withdraw its move or bring in all mediclaim policies under the service tax net. Knowing from our past experiences with this government, which cares more about corporate and big businesses than the Aam Aadmi, - as in the case of petro-product price rise and decontrol of petrol to help the oil companies and as in the case of budgetary write-offs of tax for the benefit of super-rich and the corporate sector - the Central Government may not go back on its decision but instead may bring in all the mediclaim policies, be it with cashless facility or with reimbursement option, under the service tax net.
Whatever is happened following the government’s move to bring in the mediclaim policies with cashless facility under the service tax net, the ultimate losers are only the policyholders. Like the decision to decontrol of petrol and petro product price hike, which is claimed to reduce government’s financial burden and to reduce deficit, the government’s current move to widen the service tax net, perhaps is to garner more revenue and to reduce deficit. But insurance and health care are the most important and essential basic needs of any society and it should be the top priority of any government. In our country the cost of treatment and hospitalisation are almost out of reach of common people and health insurance is the only source for them to think of a specialised treatment when in need. Instead of providing free health care or making health insurance cheaper, to consider it as a source to milk money to increase the income and reduce the deficit by the government is nothing but abandonment of its social duty. Considering the social importance of cashless medical insurance, the central government should come forward to withdraw its decision to bring it under tax net immediately without standing on prestige.
Friday, October 23, 2009
A simple lesson for ruling parties to keep on winning the election
(Readers are requested not to confuse this with the recent election results in Maharashtra)
1. Promise the people to make the state's capital into Shanghai and never fulfil that promise.
2. (a) Make sure that there is no popular leader or chief minister in the State.
(b) Alliance partners always must keep pulling each other and cut the other to size.
3. Provide sub-standard governance and visionless leadership.
4. Ensure that every day 1,800 people lose their jobs.
5. Keep three out of every eight residents below poverty line.
6. Ensure minimum of 40,000 farmers commit suicide.
7. Load-shedding and food security must be the biggest issues in rural areas.
8. Inequality between rural and urban should be maintained at 1 : 2.5.
9. Land-grabbing in various forms should be the biggest occupation of the state.
10.Ensure minimum average increase of the assets of the legislateurs is 339% during their tenure.
Saturday, August 29, 2009
Recently I read one piece of article by Mr. M. Kunhikrishnan, Vice President, All India Insurance Employees' Association which has immense value of public interest. I reproduce the same for you to read.
FOR WHOM THE (DEATH) BELL TOLLS ?
After the 14th Lok Sabha elections in the year 2004, UPA – I Government assumed office with the support of strong left contingent of 61 MPs. To ensure Left’s support UPA had to agree to and approve of a Common Minimum Programme. In the CMP, it was enunciated that Public Sector Insurance Companies both Life and General would be protected and further strengthened as Public Sector institutions. Therefore, the UPA Government could not go ahead with their reforms agenda as they wished. But, when the left withdrew their support, consequent on signing nuclear pact abjectly surrendering country’s sovereignty, UPA Government took it as an opportunity to implement all reforms in financial sector with an indecent haste. As a part of their move, 2 Bills, viz, LIC (Amendment) Bill, 2008 and Insurance (Amendment) Bill, 2008 were introduced in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha respectively on 22.12.2008.
The bill introduced in Rajya Sabha was to enact a comprehensive legislation amending Insurance Act, 1938, General Insurance Business Nationalisation Act 1972 and IRDA Act 1999. Maximum cap prescribed by IRDA Act for Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) is 26%. The proposed amendment seeks to hike this cap to 49% to enable foreign partners of the private insurance companies (Joint Ventures) to enhance their capital participation. It also provides for Public Sector General Insurance Companies (National, United India, New India and Oriental) to divest their equity if they wish to enhance capital base in future. The real intent is to disinvest equity of 4 Public Sector General Insurance Companies.
The Government wants to bring Life Insurance Corporation of India (L I C), the lone Public Sector Life Insurance Company in the country too under the ambit of Insurance (Amendment) Bill. The Government introduced L I C (Amendment) Bill 2009 in the Lok Sabha on 31.07.2009 in lieu of the Bill 2008 which lapsed following dissolution of 14th Lok Sabha with this objective. When we analyze the objectives of the bill re-introduced the privatization agenda of the Government would come to fore. The salient features can be summarized briefly as given below:
• Provide for raising of minimum capital of the Life Insurance Corporation of India from 5 crores of rupees to 100 crores of rupees which can further be enhanced to such amount as the Central Government may, by notification, determine.
• Provide sovereign guarantee to the policies of the L I C of India to the extent to be determined by order, by the Central Government from time to time.
• Allocate ninety percent surplus for the Life Insurance policy holders instead of ninety five percent as envisaged in L I C Act, 1956.
• Empower Life Insurance Corporation to make regulations in respect of terms and conditions of the Agents.
Let us examine these in detail.
The proposed amendments are to conform L I C Act to the regulations of IRDA Act, 1999, the Government argues innocently. They go on to say that there are 21 life insurance companies functioning in the country in addition to L I C of India and that all the private companies have a minimum capital of 100 crores of rupees each. Hence the proposal to increase the capital base of L I C, the Government argues.
The IRDA Act stipulates that a life insurance company comes into existence after enactment of the Act must have a minimum capital of 100 crores of rupees. In other words, a life insurance company existing and functioning prior to the enactment of IRDA Act need not comply with this provision. Further, Life Insurance Corporation of India started functioning from 01.09.1956 as per the provisions of L I C Act, 1956, an Act adopted by the Parliament of the country, with a capital of 5 crores of rupees. Therefore, it is not at all necessary to enhance the capital as per provision of IRDA Act, 1999. Moreover, the then Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and the then Finance Minister Sri. C.D. Deshmukh, the architects of public sector in India had a vision that the L I C may grow to such an extent where Government’s capital can be dispensed with at a later stage. They wanted Life Insurance Corporation to function as an autonomous body corporate with sufficient capital of its own. That is why they included a provision in L I C Act, 1956 to reduce the capital of L I C by the Government on the recommendation of the Corporation.
The question is whether further infusion of capital to the tune of 95 crores of rupees is necessary for L I C of India. As per provisional accounts as at 31.03.2009, the Life Insurance Corporation of India have assets worth 9 lakh crores of rupees. It has a liability of 7,75,000 crores of rupees. What way L I C would be benefited with an additional capital of 95 crores of rupees when it has a net asset worth 1,25,000 crores of rupees?
Even a layman can understand, the real objective of the Government is to privatize L I C of India. Equity worth 5 crores of rupees is not sufficient for disinvestment. In the year 1994, the committee headed by R.N. Malhotra recommended to Government of India to enhance the equity base of L I C to 100 crores of rupees and also to disinvest stocks valuing 50 crores of rupees. Due to the stiff resistance of Trade Unions, Political parties, especially the Left, the Malhotra Committee recommendations had to be kept in cold storage. The Government now wants to go ahead with disinvestment of LIC’s shares after enactment of Insurance (Amendment) Bill which has been introduced in Rajya Sabha on 22.12.2008.
Why the Government wants to withdraw the ‘sovereign guarantee’ enjoyed by Life Insurance Policies of LIC? They want to create a ‘level playing ground’ for the private players. Orchestrated demand of the private companies and the IRDA chairmen from time to time was withdrawal of sovereign guarantee of L I C policies. The Government now succumbs to their pressure.
L I C was formed in the year 1956 nationalising 245 private life insurance companies, both Indian and foreign. When the assets and liabilities of these companies were evaluated, it was found that the net liability exceed assets by 75lakhs of rupees. The Government then decided to provide sovereign guarantee to LIC policies to instill confidence to the investors. But, L I C never invoked this provision to meet its liability. LIC settled all the claims including large scale claims preferred following national calamities like Gujarat earthquake, tsunami etc. Despite the sterling performance of LIC, the Government intends to withdraw ‘sovereign guaranty’ to destroy the edge L I C has in the market. It is a fact that L I C garnered nearly 62% of market share of life insurance business of the country withstanding the stiff competition of the private players. Withdrawal of ‘sovereign guarantee’ is to mislead the clientele who reposed confidence in the public sector behemoth.
In addition to this, the amendment proposes to change the existing formula of dividing surplus of the Corporation derived after annual valuation. As of now, the policy holders are entitled to 95% of divisible surplus which are distributed to them as Bonuses. It is sought to be reduced by 5% making their eligibility to 90%. Naturally, the corporation would be constrained to reduce the rate of bonus payable to the policy holders. L I C is giving Bonus to the policy holders at highest rate at present. No private company can compete with L I C on this count. Barring one or two, all other private companies have incurred losses even after nine years of existence. They declare Bonus from share holder’s fund and not from the surplus derived after valuation of business performance. They want L I C’s capability to pay higher bonus to be pruned. Here also, the Government acts according to the wish of private players.
The move to delegate powers to make regulations in respect of terms and conditions of Agents to the Life Insurance Corporation may appear innocuous and routine. As per the present practice, change in the Agents Regulation, 1972 has to be vetted by Government. When these powers are delegated to the Corporation, it would enable the Corporation to frame or amend Agent’s rules according to the whims of bureaucrats. Recently, an amendment to Agents Regulation, 1972 was made effective from 09.07.2009 according to which each agent has to introduce 12 lives in a year and bring in a first year premium income of a minimum one lakh of rupees to keep the Agency in force. More than 50% of the existing agency force cannot fulfill this condition which may lead to their termination. Agents are apprehensive of the Corporation venturing for more stringent conditionalities. Unlike Agents working for private life insurance companies, L I C Agents are privileged to receive commission for the entire term of the policy until its exit from the books of the corporation. The management is toying with an idea to limit the period of payment of commission. Agents are viewing these proposed amendments as a Damocles’ sword.
L I C Act, 1956 empowers L I C to establish as many Divisional Offices and Branch Offices in each zone as the Zonal Manager may think fit. The proposed amendment seeks to omit this provision from the Act. As a business organization L I C may have to increase visibility to enhance marketing activities especially in the background of competition from private players. L I C cannot open new offices in the light of the proposed amendment. This would stifle L I C from broadening their servicing as well as marketing activities. It may ultimately benefit the competitors and this is the real motive of the Government.
Defeat the sinister design of the Government.
The first phase of demolishing public sector Life Insurance Company was over with enacting IRDA Act, 1999 whereby insurance sector was opened up for private participation. Now, UPA – II Government which continues to pursue neo liberal policies, wants to embark upon second phase of their attack by enacting L I C (Amendment) Act and Insurance (Amendment) Act. The ill conceived move can be resisted only by the united will of the people. Widest public opinion has to be created. As a prelude to organizing the people enmasse, we have to unleash a campaign amongst the various constituents of LIC, to educate the Employees, Officers, Development Officers and Agents and to brief them properly of the consequences of the amendments if eventually enacted.
L I C today has 26 crores of policy holders. We must win their confidence. They must be taught that whatever be the hurdles created by the Government, L I C is capable of meeting all the liabilities to the satisfaction of the clientele. We must be the vanguard of the ensuing campaign and struggles. If L I C employees organized under the banner of AIIEA cannot do it, who else can do it?
Thursday, June 12, 2008
In actor-producer Michael Douglas' classic Wall Street released in 1987, the main character Gordon Gekko defined greed thus: "... greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right, greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms; greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge has marked the upward surge of mankind.” In the said movie, this dialogue added strength to the main character and with many such punches coupled with the way of portrayal of the character has earned nomination for Oscars then. But after two decades, when this dialogue is heard now, one may wonder whether it was just a coincidence or a precursor to what was to follow in future. Also one may wonder whether Gordon Gekko was a fictional character or a replication of future society. This doubt is inevitable if the present trend is looked at the background of Gekko's perception about money, love and life.
The present reforms era of economic liberalism, corporate activism and competitive consumerism, emphasizes the power of currency which completely changed social concept and societal outlook. When currency becomes the driving force of the human life, humanism vanishes from the human life.
Competitive consumerism, in its mad rush to reach the consumers, using the media - especially the all powerful visual media - as the bridge between the products and the customers, exceeds all boundaries in its publicity craze, diminishing the long cherished cultural values. For these advertisers love, marriage and life has totally different perception from the one that we have been taught in our primaries. In the world of publicity of competitive consumerism, an husband need not feel shy of exchanging his wife for a tray of ice cream cups. In this shadow world of idiot box, a girl need not feel guilty of changing his lover for a favorite toffee. In this advertisement world all it is needed for a boy to win over a girl’s heart is nothing but a branded inner garment. In this shameless world boys need not feel bothered to engage any number of girl friends all at the same time and same place as long as he keeps sufficient number of candies to offer; youth need not worry about dad’s scolding, if he has an MP3 compatible mobile in his possession; and lovers need not fear to run away from home right in daring vision of the girl’s father if they drive a low cost luxury car. With all these, can we say what is there for us to fear for or feel shy of? Can we tell our generation that a new demarcation of life has been laid for us to follow by these ads? Let us search our soul and mind and be honest in finding an answer.
Corporate activism is another thing which calls for an honest soul search. How many of the corporate employees can honestly tell that they have hundred percent job satisfaction? How many of the corporate employees can proudly claim that they spend sufficient time with their family and children? How many of them can candidly claim they are free of any stress? Is it not a fact that there were reports of some IT professionals committing suicide because of unbearable stress? Don’t we feel sorry for that old age couple who committed suicide as they could not bear the loneliness?
Sports, particularly cricket, is yet another field of corporate venture in recent time. The result of corporate entry into cricket is the recently concluded IPL T20 Cricket matches. For the first time in the annuls of sporting history, cricket players were put on auction like a commodity for this IPL cricket tournament. From the way in which corporate franchises were bidding for the players based on their popularity rather than their actual cricketing worth, it is clearly evident that it was business transactions and had nothing to do with each player’s ability. In his report Arnab Mitra, who has written a study on the IPL says “If broadcasting rights, franchise fees and central sponsorships are combined, there will be a fixed yearly income for BCCI. Plus, there are no cost pressures on the body due to stadium leasing expenses or any hikes in the salaries of players. This will lead to it more than doubling its profits in the very first year. The forecasted profit for BCCI over the next 10 years is a whopping Rs 43 billion!” There are news reports which say, “(1) Over 200 million Indian viewers, 10 million international viewers and 4 million live audience watched IPL; (2) A 10-second ad spot during IPL cost Rs 2 lakh to start with, and went for Rs 10 lakh in the final; (3) IPL will bring in about Rs 12 billion every year in cricket; (4) India's total sports budget last year was Rs 4.9 billion; BCCI will earn Rs 3.5 billion from the first year of IPL, which is more than the Rs 2.3 billion it earned in 2007.” Another news report says that Dhoni had scored 414 runs at an average of 41.40 in 14 innings in IPL and each run that flowed from his blade was worth Rs 1,44,927. According to a news portal report “over four million spectators watched IPL matches in stadiums. On TV too, the TRP (Television Rating Point) of these matches was a mind boggling 8.2 in the first two weeks, 8 at others and was always above 5. That's when saas-bahu soaps like Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi have averaged at 5, and SRK's Paanchvi Paas has seen TRPs of 4.” So, commercially IPL matches were big hit one should admit. But for cricket and sport, is it a boon or bane? While some former cricketers like Wasim Akram have criticized the IPL, analysts expressed fear that it might kill other formats of cricket.
The corporates’ entry into cine field has also stirred controversy as seen in Tamil cinema industry. According to the Tamil Film producers, it was the entry of the corporates in film industry which increased the actors’ remuneration to manifold which in turn increased the cost of film production to an unbearable limit. Though there was denial about this from the film artists’ association, the fact remains that there are accusations from one section of the industry. Nobody can dispute the corporates’ contribution in the country’s economic growth, but still is it not equally essential for its people also grow healthily? Can money alone ensure their health and happiness?
With economic liberalization in operation, now the currency has become the most sought after commodity in our life. Now that it is repeatedly told that there is no alternative(?) to liberalization, people also understand the message in it. If the State can sacrifice all its holdings for the growth of economy, then why not people too follow the example? But what is there for ordinary human to sacrifice except humanism? With currency taking the front seat people also think there is no alternative to earn the most sought after commodity called currency except by sacrificing whatever they have in exchange for money.
Is it not a fact that for Lal Babu of Nagwan village, Rs.7500/- was the consideration amount for killing his sixty years old father Sudeshwar Ram? Was it not money for the IAS aspirant Vipul to pursue his studies that prompted him to kill his fifty five year old mother Kailash Devi of Delhi? Was it not the desire to have a regular monthly income through compassionate ground appointment in Hyderabad Municipal Corporation that took Yadaiah and his wife Renuka to the extreme step of plotting to murder the former’s fifty two year old mother Narsamma? Was it not the same reason of getting an appointment through compassionate grounds in Government services that forced Shankar Oraon of Ranchi to make his father to drink heavily and then beat him to death? For Chandrasekhar of Anantapur, Shyam of Delhi and Suraj of Raipur who have killed their fathers, is it not the same money that prompted them to plot the murders? According to news reports, the killing of the foster son in law of former chief minister of Tamil Nadu was also due to property dispute. If it is proved to be true in the court of law, then it means that this trend has intruded into the elite class too.
These may be a few stray incidents which cannot be generalized. But still it is distressing and difficult to digest. Or is it the return of Gekko? Let us hope it is not and ensure that today’s precedents do not become tomorrow’s practice. After all a healthy economy is for the health of the society and happiness of the people. Should we not make it certain?
C.T. SURESH KUMAR.