Over one lakh protests against the anti-labour and anti-farmer polices of the central government were witnessed across the country on September 23, in response to the call for protest by Central Trade Unions (CTUs) and independent associations and federations.
The protests were held in the wake of Lok Sabha clearing the three labour Bills concerning ‘Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions’, ‘Social Security’ and ‘Industrial Relations’, which were introduced on Saturday, September 19. While the bills went to the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday, workers across the country registered their opposition to the anti-workers bills by blocking roads and striking work.
In the national capital, the leaders of Indian National Trade Union Congress, Ashok Singh; All India Trade Union Congress, Amarjeet Kaur; Hind Mazdoor Sabha, Harbhajan Singh Sidhu; CITU, Hemlata; All India United Trade Union Congress, R K Sharma; Self Employed Women’s Association, Lata; All India Central Council of Trade Unions, Rajiv Dimri; Left Progressive Front, J P Singh; United Trade Union Congress, R S Dagar; and MEC (Santosh) gathered, along with hundreds of activists, near the Jantar Mantar crossing to register their protest.
The trade union leaders gathered at the national capital compared the government to the colonial period and said that “incumbent BJP Government was following on the footsteps of the Britishers, using unconstitutional means again to enslave the workers and the farmers to the interests of the corporates and it was the duty of the workers and the farmers to beat them back for their own constitutional rights.”
"These policies of the central government are against the interests of the working people of the country," the unions said in a joint statement issued after the passage of the three Bills in the lower house.
The statement added that the labour codes were introduced following the passage of two agri Bills. These labour codes, the statement said, “first introduced in December 2019, which were even whetted by the parliamentary committee, were passed in the Lok Sabha, empty of major opposition parties. But the Government, hell bent on getting the codes passed in this session, not only against parliamentary norms, but in opposition to the entire Trade Union movement of the country, so that rights to strike, to form trade unions, to social security etc. can be severely curtailed.”
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The copies of the bills were torn down by the angry protesters. The central trade union leaders also reiterated their support to the all India protests by the farmers on September 25 against the farm bills and said that, “With the passage of the labour code bills and the farm bills it has become imperative for the toiling people to unite in their full strength to fight them at the ground. The trade unions called upon all their members and the entire working class to stand in full solidarity with the peasants through physical mobilisation on September 25, 2020.”
According to the statement, the other demands include lockdown wages for workers, no retrenchments of the workers and no wage cuts during the lockdown period as advised by the government. Besides, the unions have been demanding universal public ration distribution to all needy citizens along with cash transfer of Rs 7,500 per month to unorganised sector workers and self employed workers for at least for six months for their sustenance.
Earlier a statement, highlighting the growing joblessness in the country in the wake of pandemic and even before, was released by the CTUs which stated, “Unemployment rate which had been worst in 45 years in 2019 is rising with a speed never seen before. The periodic details from CMIE reflects on the situation of unemployment, wage depression, wage cuts, adverse impact on women employment as well as loss of employment, growing precarious conditions of work at work sites, despite continued increase in profit in totality.”
CITU in a press release said that “the Farm Bills and the Labour Bills are nothing but brazen acts to push the working class into 19th century slavery like conditions, drive our small and medium farmers into the deadly grip of the corporate agribusinesses and convert our small farmer based agriculture into corporate agriculture. These along with the whole sale privatisation of the public sector sound the death knell to our self reliant economy and our toiling people. All these are meant to serve the corporate cronies, domestic and foreign, of this BJP government.”
Extending its congratulations to the workers on the success of the protest on Wednesday, CITU said, “Through their massive mobilisations despite the surging Covid, the working class have declared that they would not allow these disastrous policies to continue. They made it known that the toiling people will defy, resist and stop these anti people and anti national measures on the ground, come what may. Let the BJP government warned that powerful struggles lie ahead.”
Also read: What is Wrong With the Centre’s New Labour Codes