Wednesday, December 21, 2011

EDITORIAL Fresh Wave of Privatisation

The Light of Andamans - VOL 35 | ISSUE 22 | 16 DEC 2011

Fresh Wave of Privatisation

The Andaman Public Works Department gradually stalled recruitment of labour force and the works slipped into the contractors' kitties. Teachers are now recruited under Sarva Shikshya Abhyan. Doctors under NRHM, contract slaves under DRDA and NREGA, Power generation went Surya Chakra way at an enormous cost to the exchequer. Now, most of the services are shifted to Common Service Centres run by private vendors. Most of the tourism property was to go to private operators. It is also learnt that very soon the shipping sector will have boats on wet lease manned, maintained and operated by private operators. The subsidy will sustain all these services.
At first look, the Common Service Centre looks the best bet for the common man who is pushed, insulted and looked down on by the Revenue department, Electricity department and any other place he visits to pay his bill or get a piece of paper. The feeling one gets when one visits a Food World or Reliance Mall, is of a king. He can pick whatever he wants without a scornful look from the grocery shop owner. A simple consumer will like to take a 200 gram nicely sliced and packed cauliflower than the one available at the dirty street corner vegetable vendor. It feels good when you put yourself in the position of a consumer. But, we are not just consumers. We have family and there are kids who are growing, who too need to find a job to sustain their lives.
Unfortunately, it won't be the same for the coming generations who will not have the purchasing power that we have today, thanks to Sixth Pay Commission. A small comparison of the salary structure of a clerk working in a private firm and the government sector will reveal the disparity. The Administration comes out with a minimum wage structure every year. But, why can't they pay the same scale to a government servant, if they think that the meager wage can sustain a family?
The person sitting behind the counter at a Common Service Centre will not be earning more than Rs 200 a day, whereas a government clerk sitting behind the counter at electricity department will be earning more than Rs 500 a day. A labour working with APWD earns about Rs 15000 a month whereas a labourer working under a contractor does not earn more than Rs 6000 a month.
The Government sector was and is the only reasonable employment provider in this Islands, which is now going the privatization way. Our Islands might be the only territory where professional degree holders work as constables, peons and clerks. Educated unemployment is at the rise. Everyone eyes a government job as their ultimate goal in life. It promises them a well-paid, secure and easy life ahead. However, the new mantra of the Administration is privatization in a subtle way that is sugar-coated.
With more unemployment in the government sector, a large workforce will be available in the market to work on cheap wages, which will naturally affect the economy and standard of living of the Islands. We should understand that the process threatens the foundations of the modern welfare state, if not of democracy itself. If we put aside the emotions and take a cold, hard look at privatization to date, what could we say about privatization's impact on the economy? Has it transformed the productive capacity of the economies where it has been implemented or merely transferred ownership of the choicest pieces from the public to the private sector?
Its time we open our eyes and foresee the dangers ahead and stop this wave of privatization which is more dangerous than the largest wave we have experienced in our lifetime - the tsunami.

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