As the second half of Parliament’s Budget Session resumed on March 2, protests erupted not only inside both Houses, but outside as well, with 10 central trade unions calling the 2020-21 Union Budget as “anti-people.”
The 10 central trade unions (CTUs) held a nationwide protest march on Monday against the Budget presented by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman last month. Alleging that the finance minister “is not worried about millions of workers, farmers,” the workers’ fronts called forth to oppose the Budget tooth and nail.
Further, the trade unions put forth a number of demands which, they argued, must be implemented, especially at a time when there is “slowdown” in the economy and the domestic production “is at its lowest in many years.”
Tapan Sen, general secretary of the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) explained the reasons behind the trade unions’ opposition the Budget. With this Budget, he said, “it’s no more the issue of privatisation only. The Modi government is actually selling the whole nation.”
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Sen also referred to the possible disinvestment of public sector undertakings, namely, Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited (BPCL) and Life Insurance Corporation (LIC) among others. The disinvestment plan of the later was announced by the finance minister during the presentation of the Budget – inviting flak from the unions representing LIC employees and other workers’ bodies.
“These companies—that the government is trying to sell now—are the soul of the nation. It is important for them to remain under the control of the state for various strategic reasons,” Sen told NewsClick.
The protest march also witnessed the participation of a large number of women who alleged that this year’s Budget “holds less” for the women.
Lata, vice president of the Delhi unit of Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA), spoke on how the labour policies adopted by the Modi government will “adversely affect the women workers.”
According to her, the four codes that will subsume the existing 44 labour laws will bring no relief to the female working class – which usually earns less and is prone to more exploitation.
“The safety provisions for the workers will be compromised – if the laws are codified. The laws are already not being implemented properly. Nothing has been ensured for their proper implementation even in the code bills presented in Parliament,” she said.
Furthermore, slogans were raised by the workers demanding the Modi government to put an end to the contractualisation of labour and a minimum wage of Rs. 21,000 per month.
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“The workers, who have lost their jobs, be it due to demonetisation or current economic slowdown or even in the aftermath of the violence unleashed in the capital – as many shops were torched down – must be provided with employment. The growing unemployment rates must be addressed by the government currently in power,” Dhirendra Sharma of All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC) told NewsClick.
Presented at a time when the nation’s economy is in the clutches of an unending crisis, the Union Budget failed to match the words of the finance minister, who mentioned in her budget speech that “this is a Budget to boost their [people of India] incomes and enhance their purchasing power.”
As economist Surajit Das had earlier written in NewsClick, “Clearly, this is not an expansionary budget, which would be able to address the burning problems of increase in unemployment, low wage, poverty and inequality in the country and revive growth. In fact, this is a budget, which has no benefits for anyone.”