Working people in India have sounded the bugle again for countrywide struggles including strike actions against the anti-people policies of the Modi Government. After this Govt took over in 2014, there have been two country wide strikes in 2015 and 2016. In additon to these, there have been strikes and struggles in various parts of the country involving almost all sectors. These strikes included many countrywide sectoral strikes.
Modi Government and the Prime Minister himself started his rhetorical campaign with “Shrameva Jayate”, trying to camouflage the Govt’s pro-corporate policies. This sloganeering has got exposed without much delay, with the Government unleashing a war against working people by amending Labour Laws and also other steps in the name of ease of doing business. The last 40 months have seen severe attacks on almost all the hardwon rights of the working people.
It is in such a background, the Central Trade Unions and independent national federations, once again decided to call a national convention on 8th August. Of course, there was one exception in the list of Central TUs. That was of BMS, which has been staying away from the joint actions after BJP came to power.
The huge mobilisation of delegates from all the states, literally from Kashmir to Kanyakumari, covering all the sectors reflected the anger amongst the working people against the policies of the Government.
Actually many of them had converged in the huge talkatora stadium, in the midst of struggles they have been conducting.
The public sector workers fighting against privatisation, Central Government employees continuing their struggles on their demands of implementing Government’s assurances related to pay commission, State Government employees on sturggle for wage revison and also against National Pension Scheme, Defence Production workers struggling against privatisation, Bank Officers and employees preparing for another strike against destructive reforms, Telecom employees on struggles against privatisation and also against denial of wage revision, Insurance employees fighting against disinvestment, Medical and Sales representatives struggling for people oriented drug policy, Scheme workers on continuous struggle for getting the status of workers and related benefits, private sector workers in struggle in various parts of the country struggling against denial of Trade Union rights, Various sections of informal workers raising demands of minimum wages and social security and above all contract, casual and outsourced workers from various sectors including Central and State Government departments - All were there to raise their voice of protest.
It is this urge that prompted such a big number of delegates reaching Delhi, many of them not finding a place even to stand inside the stadium.
The speeches of the leaders of the Central Trade Unions reflected fully the aspirations and expectations among the participants.
The declaration adopted in the convention dealt with the situation among all sections of working people in the country.
Noting the unprecendented unity among the peasantry in the country and the militant struggles going on in various states, the convention extended ‘full solidarity to the fighting farmers’. The declaration noted that it is the same set of pro-corporate, pro landlord policies which have created a severe crisis in Agriculture, leading to continuing increase in spate of suicides.
The convention called upon all sections of working people to unitedly struggle against the anti-people policies of the Government. The declaration noted that ‘the task before the Joint Platform of Central Trade Unions and independent National Federations is to further intensify the surging struggles in various sectors through concerted united agitation and mobilisation at national level, to be followed by country wide general strike action a culmination and consolidation of all sectoral struggles.’
Charter of demands
The convention reiterated the 12 point charter of demands, whcih formed the basis of the previous countrywide strikes, especially after 2014. The convention noted that ‘the Government has been continuing arrogantly ignore the 12 point charter of demands on minimum wage, Social security, worker status, pay and facilities for the scheme workers, against privatisation and large scale contractorisation etc being jointly pursued by the entire trade union movement of the country’.
The background of the demands
It is of great importance to the trade union movement of the country to remind itself, the background of certain demands put forward by the joint platform.
One of the most important is the demand for Rs.18,000 per month with indexation. This demand itself is an interim one on the basic demand of fixing minimum wages as per the unanimous decisions of the 15th Indian Labour Conference and the Supreme Court directives.
Indian Labour Conference (ILC) the highest Tripartite forum related to labour had in its 15th session in 1957, adopted a scientific basis for fixing minimum wages. Later on, the supreme court in its judgement in a case related to Raptakoss and Brett added 25 percent in addition to the ILC recommendations. ILC decision on minimum wages is a scientific method, based on energy requirement to a worker and family.
The Trade Union movement in the country has been raising this issue of minimum wages all these years.
It is to the credit of the Central Government Employees movement in the country, that they took up this issue and conducted strikes and struggles from 1959 onwards.
Most important of the struggle was the one day strike on 19th September 1968. Major demand of the strke was the acceptance of the 15th ILC decision on minimum wages. Even after 49 years of this historic strike, the demand is still not met. But, how the ruling class of India tried to drown a day’s strike by its own employees in cold blood, exposed once again their anti worker approach and their class biased policies.
Seventeen employees were killed on the strike day in police firing and lathi charges. Some were even thrown down from high rise office buildings. Hundreds were injured in lathi charges, tear gas etc.
Government had involved Essential Services Maintance Act (ESMA) days before the strike. After the strike 64,000 temporary workers were sacked. 40,000 regular workes were suspended. Many of these were punished in various ways, including termination.
Some of those who were terminated had to wait till 1978, when congress was defeated in 1977 elections, to get reinstatement.
Trade Union Movement in India, can never forget such large scale killings and victimisations just for a day’s strike. That too, when the one day strike was for a demand which the government had agreed to, in the highest tripartite body. The fact that the Government had not yet accepted this principle exposes governments at the centre, though led by various parties and fronts.
Central govt employees are even now on struggle on this demand of minimum wages and in March, 2017 had conducted a day’s countrywide strike.
Exploitation through contract, casual and out sourcing systems are continuing. Lakhs of workers in sections like Gramin Dak Sewa, Scheme workers like Anganwadi, Asha, Midday meal workers continue to suffer under govt. of india, without even getting the status of workers.
This experience shows that the struggle should be more inclusive of all those who are affected by the policies of the Government and the struggle has to be developed in to a struggle against the policies of the ruling classes.
It is with this in mind, the convention has called for campaigns and conventions from the local, regional and state level and for massive mobilisation at Central level.
Three days mass Dharna on 9th, 10th and 11th of November in New Delhi will witness massive mobilisation from all over the country.
The convention has also called upon the working people to prepare for indefinite, countrywide strike action against anti-people, anti national activities of the Government.
Against disruptive forces
Need of the hour is total unity of the working people. The convention has noted the danger of disruptive forces active in the country. The convention ‘recorded its strong denunciation against communal and divisive machinations on the society being carried on with the active patronage of the government machinery under the present polity and called upon the working class ‘to raise their strong voice of protest.’
While these campaigns will be jointly undertaken, various organisations will also concurrently conduct independent campaigns to prepare their own ranks and also others for the joint struggle.
All out efforts are required to reach out to all sections of working people. With the government and all their supporters including the corporate and government led media on their side, the efforts of the unions and its floor level cadres have to be strengthened in whatever ways possible to meet all the challenges.
The days ahead are those of massive, militant struggles, and every one has to be prepared to take up the tasks.
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