J&K: Jammu and Kashmir is all set to see a massive protest on November 26 by workers from every major industrial sector, financial establishment and government scheme, who are supporting the nationwide call for a general strike.
The strike is against what they have termed as “anti-worker, anti-people, and anti-farmer” policies of the Union government. While hundreds of workers from public and private sectors are expected to gather at Press Clubs in Jammu and Srinagar respectively, those in far-away districts of the Union Territory would not attend to work and will protest from their respective work stations.
Jai Lal Parihar, state president of Centre of Indian Trade Unions (J&K), said that workers in Chenab valley, including Kishtwar, Ramban, and Doda districts of Jammu division, who are working at Hydro power projects, four- lane constructions and railway constructions among others, will be part of the strike.
“Around 2,700 workers, who are contractual, will be joining the strike from Chenab valley. The workers here are living a measly life with no regular jobs, wages less than the minimum wage and more than 12 work hours on a daily basis. The workers are aware of their rights and are enthusiastically participating in the strike call,” Parihar said.
In Kashmir, protest will be taking place outside Press Club, Srinagar, and from respective work stations of the workers.
Speaking to NewsClick, CITU leader Abdul Rashid Najar said, “All the workers across Jammu and Kashmir will stop their work and hold protests to demand their basic rights and exploitative policies of the central government.”
Government scheme workers like ASHA (accredited social health activists) and Anganwadi will also be joining the protest. “There are 30,000 Anganwadi workers; we are expecting around 3000-4000 workers to join the protest,” said Lateefa Ganai, an Anganwadi worker from Kashmir.
The workers who would be striking have expressed dismay over the ‘hostile’ policies of the central government. Govind Singh, a casual worker at the government’s Border Road Organisation (BRO), said he is joining the protest because of the constant exploitation he and his co-workers are facing on a regular basis. Speaking to NewsClick, Singh said, “On 20th of each month, we are called by our bosses who humiliate us by asking us to leave the job if we won’t work properly and put in extra hours. This constant exploitation and overload of work is my reason for joining the protest,” said Singh, Vice President, BRO workers association for Casual Paid Labourers.
Recently, the Narendra Modi government had unilaterally passed new labour codes in the face of sustained resentment from the working class. The labour codes have stripped workers off their erstwhile protective laws, according to experts and labour unions. These newly passed codes allow the employer to regulate the wages, hire and fire without much hassle, increase contract-based work (in contrast to regularisation of workers), stop workers from holding protests, and diminish the role of trade unions.
The condition of workers has exacerbated after the coronavirus-induced lockdown with massive job cuts and economic clampdown. NewsClick had recently reported on how children were also being pushed into labour with increased work hours and low wages, especially in the UT.
In the aftermath of these “destructive” policies and onerous conditions for workers, the central trade unions have given a call for a nationwide strike. The demands raised by the workers participating in the upcoming protest are: minimum wages of Rs 21,000 per month, abolition of anti-labour and anti-farmer bills, regularisation of services, end to privatisation of public sector units, assured pension of Rs 10,000 per month, supply of 10 kg of food grains to needy families.
“The recently passed labour laws exhibit the intention of the central government to facilitate giant industries by opening the gates of privatisation while robbing workers of their basic rights. The BJP government has, time and again, proved that they are anti-workers, the recent draconian labour codes are a new addition to it,” said Jagdish Kumar, CITU president, Jammu. He added, “The workers are in really pathetic conditions and more so, after the Coronavirus induced lockdown. This strike is for our workers who toil on a daily basis.”