Frederick Douglass

"Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did, and it never will. Find out just what people will submit to, and you have found out the exact amount of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them..." Frederick Douglass

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Indian GSE* Not Paying Its Own Workers.

Public Sector Undertaking Bharat Heavy Electrical Limited (BHEL) is 51 per cent owned, as the company puts it, by the President of India. According to India's state Press Information Bureau, BHEL has failed to pay the wages of Indian nationals working at the Kosti thermal power project in Sudan and at another worksite in the Central African Republic.

A reference from the State Government of Odisha was received regarding the non payment of assured wages and non-providence of proper food and shelter to workmen from Odisha who had been deployed to work in Power Plant construction in Sudan.

One more reference was received from the State Government of Odisha regarding the harassment of Oriya workers working in the Kosti Thermal Project, Kosti (Sudan). Another reference was received from the Odisha Government with respect to the grievances of workers at a Central Plant under construction in the Central African Republic. References regarding the exploitation of Migrant Labour of Odisha in South Africa and Lebanon have not been received.

The matter was taken up by the Ministry with the Indian Mission in Khartoum. They have reported on 18-04-2011 that out of 216 workers working with a construction company, Sudan, 198 were sent back by 31-12-2010 and 18 workers agreed to continue and were allowed to work at the site. Similarly, the Indian Mission at Khartoum intimated on 26-09-2011 that 68 workers from Odisha had been repatriated from Kosti Thermal Project, Sudan. Further, with the intervention of Indian Mission, Kinshasa, all the 23 workers from Odisha were repatriated from the Central African Republic.

Information as to who is responsible for this abuse is hard to come by, but the PSU's failure to fulfill its responsibilities to its employees is due in no part to insolvency. From the company's website:

Press Release


BHEL pays all-time high 136 per cent Interim Dividend for fiscal 2011-12

Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited (BHEL) has declared an interim dividend of 136%on the enhanced equity capital post-bonus, for fiscal 2011-12 as against 132.5% paid in the year before. At Rs.6657.5 Million, this is the highest-ever interim dividend in perentage as well as value terms declared by the company so far.

With this, the company has maintained its impeccable track record of earning profits and rewarding investors by paying dividends uninterruptedly for over three decades without a break.

A cheque of Rs.4508.5 Million towards the interim dividend for the year 2011-12 on the equity (67.72%) held by the Government of India, was presented here today to Mr. Praful Patel, Hon’ble Union Minister for Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises by Mr. B.P. Rao, Chairman and Managing Director, BHEL, in the presence of Mr. S. Sundareshan, Secretary, Department of Heavy Industries.

Directors on the board of BHEL as well as other senior officials of the Ministry of Heavy Industries & Public Enterprises and BHEL were also present on this occasion.

The growth momentum achieved by BHEL in 2010-11 is likely to be accelerated in the current fiscal. The company has recorded significant growth in its turnover and achieved a quantum jump of 14% in profitability in the first nine months of 2011-12, with its Net Profit (PAT) at Rs.36,602 Million, compared to Rs.32,132 Million in the corresponding period in the year before. With this, BHEL has maintained its track record of earning profits uninterruptedly for four decades without a break.

With an order book position of over Rs.1,465,000 Million, at the end of the third quarter, the company expects to achieve robust growth in 2011-12 and beyond.

BHEL has been committed to the nation’s power development programme and has reaffirmed its commitment to the Indian Power Sector by equipping itself by way of contemporary technology, state-of-the-art manufacturing facilities and skilled technical manpower. The company has established the capability to deliver 15,000 MW per annum and further augmentation to 20,000 MW per annum is underway.

Migrant workers travel thousands of miles across the Indian Ocean to work for a company owned in large part by their own government and what do they find? Harassment and non-payment of wages. Even if we stipulate that BHEL did not intend the outrage and responsibility lies with the Africans, the company is swimming in profit and state-owned, clearly it could redress these grievances and make good its promises to its lowest-payed laborers.

Here we see the all-too-familiar, incestuous embrace of state and capital. According to the Marxist view, the state arises to enforce the will of the ruling minority; it is the barricade behind which capital encamps and issues its directives. But today it is more accurate to see the various national governments as firms themselves, not merely sword and shield but fellow travelers, and in the case of BHEL, literal partners.

Far worse things occur every day on our planet, but in this case the crass nature of modern capital is laid bare for all to see. Even in the best-case scenario, there is no excuse for what happened to these migrant workers: They were betrayed by their own government.

The root of the problem is capitalism. It doesn't matter whom we put in office, even the well-intentioned will be overcome by enveloping forces. Until capital is put to flight, we are all just migrant workers tacking back and forth across the globe in search of freedom and a dignified life, only to come to misery in the end.

*Government Sponsored Enterprise, which is a company wherein a government, usually national, has a majority stake. These are called Public Sector Undertakings in India.