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Mistrust grips Unit Trust staff

Mumbai, Nov. 5: The anti-privatisation bug, which has gnawed away at the government’s efforts to sell its stake in several big public sector undertakings, has now bitten the Unit Trust of India as well. A groundswell of opinion against the privatisation of the Unit Trust of India is emerging within the ranks of the employees of the mutual fund major.

While efforts to privatise Hindustan Petroleum, Bharat Petroleum and Nalco have been more or less thwarted by opposition from political parties and in Nalco’s case by employees themselves, the move to repeal the UTI Act by an Ordinance has raised the hackles of the mutual fund’s staff.

What is giving the employees sleepless nights is that all of them are being compelled to shift to Unit Trust of India (II), which is eventually likely to be purchased by foreign entities. The government has not given them any option to stay on with Unit Trust of India-I.

Instead, the Ordinance says: “Where an officer or employee of the Trust opts not to be in employment or service of the specified company, such officer or other employee shall be deemed to have resigned.” This, employees of the mutual fund protest, is an unfair clause.

Further, the administrator in consultation with the specified company may requisite the services of such officers or other employees as it may deem fit on such terms and conditions ‘which may be mutually agreed upon between the administrator and the specified company’.

“My job is at stake and I’m staring at unemployment. We are garnering support from political parties to prevent the privatisation of UTI,” a senior office bearer of the Unit Trust Officers’ Association told The Telegraph.

In fact, both the Unit Trust Employees’ Association and the Unit Trust Officers’ Association have come together under the aegis of the All India Unit Trust Staff Joint Action Committee—an association floated last week—to protest the privatisation of the mutual fund. Significantly enough, Gajanan Kirtikar, the convenor of the All India Unit Trust Staff Joint Action Committee, is an MLA of the Shiv Sena, a member of the ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA).

As a first step, all UTI employees—except the top brass—have decided to wear black badges. “This is the second day of protest and we have received very good support from employees from other zonal offices,” an employee claimed.

Tuesday was the second day of the protest and the joint action committee will launch a dharna at the headquarters on November 7 and 8, he added. While the Ordinance has been passed, it is still not too late, he said. The Bill has to come up before Parliament for assent. “By then, we hope to create a groundswell of public opinion against the privatisation.”

UTI, which controlled almost 50 per cent of the mutual fund industry, has almost 1,200 employees in Mumbai alone, with the rest spread across the country. According to a member of the association, almost 2,500 employees across all UTI offices have expressed solidarity with the anti-privatisation move.

“We will protest against the repeal of the UTI Act and plan to intensify the agitation in a phased manner,” a statement by the Unit Trust Staff Joint Action Committee said.

“We dispute the contention that UTI is a mutual fund,” the official said. They argued that UTI was formed as a financial institution by an act of Parliament under the overall supervision and control of the government to inculcate a savings habit amongst the small and middle class.

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