As part of the on-going protest series against the privatisation of BEML (formerly Bharat Earth Movers Limited), the employees in its Palakkad unit on Wednesday (February 17) evening formed a human fortress or a protest wall.
The employees formed the human fortress in front of the BEML plant and Instrumentation Ltd (IL) at Kanjikode on Wednesday at 4.30 PM in protest against the central government move to sell off BEML at the call given by the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU).
Along with the BEML employees, thousands of workers from various sectors across the district also formed a human wall. Extending solidarity to the BEML employees, Association of IT Employees in Palakkad joined in the human fortress along with others to protect the public sector undertaking.
While inaugurating the human fortress, CITU state general secretary Elamaram Kareem said, “The BEML’s Palakkad unit was established when Natarajan had served as BEML’s managing director. He had taken keen interest to establish the unit at Palakkad and the unit was established in 2010. That time, the management had told us that if the unit starts to make railway coaches, there should be facilities to roll it through railway lines.”
CITU state general secretary and MP Elamaram Kareem inaugurated the human fortress against BEML’s privatisation.
He added, “For that they asked the then Left government to acquire the land adjacent to Chennai- Manglore railway line. The then government took special interest to do so and now we cannot accept the central government selling such a PSU which was established with the special interest of state government and employees. The state government has given these 378 acres of land to the PSU on lease. Now, the Centre cannot sell it without having the permission of the state,” he added.
The BEML employees and workers from various other sectors have also pledged to maintain the BEML as a public sector unit.
Also read: BEML Employees’ Unions Begin Indefinite Stir Against Privatisation
When the Centre decided to move ahead with the disinvestment of BEML Limited, the employees at various units across the country had launched series of protests. At the Palakkad unit, the employees under the banner of BEML Employees Association had launched an indefinite dharna on January 6. The protest started after the Centre on January 3 issued a preliminary information memorandum calling for a two-stage competitive bidding process and set the minimum net worth requirement for bidders at Rs 1,400 crore, disinvesting the 26% equity share capital of its total shareholding of 54.03% along with management control.
BEML has been a profit-making PSU engaged in the manufacturing of heavy vehicles used for defence purposes. Army trucks, recovery vehicles, missile launcher vehicles, radar carrying vehicles, and Sarvatra bridges are manufactured by BEML. It is also the only Indian company engaged in the making of metro rail coaches.
Hundreds of workers from other sectors also joined the BEML employees in their human fortress on February 17.
CITU has alleged that by privatising a mini ratna company like BEML, the Centre is trying to jeopardise the country’s security personnel.
“Craving for profit will make private players compromise the safety of the heavy defence equipment manufactured for the Indian Army. It cannot be allowed at any cost,” CITU leaders had said in an earlier statement.
Earlier, on February 12, the protesting employees kick-started a vehicle rally to raise awareness among the public against the privatisation drive. The rally will cover various talukas in the district. As part of this ongoing protest series, a Jana Sabha had been conducted in front of BEML Palakkad complex on February 13. Elected representatives from Palakkad district including MLAs, president and vice president of District Panchayat, various Gram Panchayat, Block Panchayat and Municipalities were part of the Jana Sabha.
The dharna at the Palakkad unit has completed 43 days and has been witnessing the participation of BEML employees along with other sections of the society. As the central trade unions who have aligned with the protesting employees have initiated a public campaign, the protest has been gathering massive support from the people.
Also read: Centre Reaffirms Disinvestment of Profit-making BEML