The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Left out, unions ready ritual

New Delhi, Aug. 9: Foreign investment first, provident fund next.

The Left parties today made customary noises against the interest rate cut and lined up protests. But Left trade unions feel that preoccupied with the foreign direct investment stand-off, their political parents neglected the interest rate issue.

The CPM’s Citu and the CPI’s Aituc had written to the leaders of their respective parties, urging them to sort out the provident fund matter with more urgency. CPI general secretary A.B. Bardhan had then said that more than foreign investment, the provident fund interest rate will affect common people more.

In private, senior Left leaders had conceded that the government would find it impossible to meet the unions’ demand for 12 per cent interest. But the political leadership was expecting the government to take a middle path and peg the rate at 9 per cent and did not anticipate the sharper cut.

The Left leaders are now clutching at the “interim” tag on the interest rate decision and hoping that a revision will come eventually.

“We are still hoping the government will revise its decision and not take a unilateral decision,” said CPI leader D. Raja. The CPM termed the cut “unfortunate”.

But the CPI’s trade union wing was more vocal. “The decision is atrocious and unilateral. The inflation rate is 7.5 per cent and an 8.5 per cent provident fund interest rate will give the subscribers nothing,” said Aituc general secretary and CPI Lok Sabha member Gurudas Dasgupta.

The Left unions pointed out that even on the FDI front, their flagship parties have not yet wangled any definite commitment on rolling back proposals to ease investment norms in telecom, insurance and aviation.

The Left parties and their unions have declared that they will launch a movement against the cut. Sticking to their promise of not rocking the coalition boat, the Left will organise protests within and outside Parliament.

The unions are likely to play the role played by the Sangh parivar’s arm — the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS). During the NDA’s rule, the BMS opposed liberalisation and moves to reform labour laws but did not overstep the line.

The Congress-affiliated Intuc justified the rate cut and attacked the Left unions. “The communists want to only politicise the issue. I do not know why they are making the unreasonable demand,” Intuc president Sanjeeva Reddy said, referring to the clamour to raise the rate to 12 per cent.

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