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Central TUs Call for 2-Day Strike Against Unemployment, Price Rise During Budget Session

Ronak Chhabra |
A declaration condemning the Centre for “squeezing the human survival entitlement of the people” was adopted by the leadership of CTUs as they put forward ten demands.

Among the participants at the convention included national leadership of the ten CTUs, along with that of Samyukt Kisan Morcha. Courtesy - Central Trade Unions

Scrapping of the Labour Codes, rolling back National Monetisation Pipeline, increasing allocation for the rural guarantee scheme and ensuring remedial measures to arrest price rise – these are among the main demands that the ten Central Trade Unions (CTUs) would raise in the coming days as part of a nationwide action programme declared on Thursday.

Arguing that the “ongoing united struggle” of the working people needs to be heightened “to the level of resistance,” the CTUs called for a two-day countrywide general strike during the Budget Session of Parliament next year, dates for which are yet to be decided. They would also hold a nationwide demonstration on November 26 to commemorate one year of the farmers’ march to Delhi.

The decisions taken in the backdrop of increasing unemployment in the country and the recent spike in the prices of the essential commodities were announced by the joint platform of CTUs in a national convention held on Thursday at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi.

Among the participants at the convention were the national leadership of the ten CTUs. They were joined by the representatives of independent federations from across the country and also that of Samyukt Kisan Morcha, the umbrella front of farmers’ body that is spearheading an agitation at the national capital borders against the three contentious agriculture laws.

Latest figures for the month of October, shared by Mumbai-based Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE), registered a decline in the overall employment in the country by 5.5 million, indicating a grim job scenario even in a festive month, with the unemployment rate remaining close to a whopping 8%.

To make matters worse, inflationary pressure has been mounted over the millions of working Indians’ households, whose incomes were battered by pandemic-induced blows. Meanwhile, petrol-diesel prices stayed at a record high in India over the past few months before seeing a drop only recently after the slashing of excise duty.

At the convention, a declaration condemning the Narendra Modi-led central government for “squeezing the human survival entitlement of the people” was adopted by the leadership of CTUs, namely, INTUC, AITUC, CITU, HMS, AIUTUC, TUCC, SEWA, AICCTU, LPF, and UTUC.

The trade unions flayed the central government for not providing enough assistance to the working population during the pandemic and instead choosing to push forward the “reckless privatisation” of national assets and public sector enterprises.

The declaration carried the ten-point demand charter of the CTUs, including a food and income support of Rs 7500 per month to non-income taxpayers. The CTUs also declared a programme of action for the upcoming months, including a countrywide demonstration on November 26 to mark the one-year anniversary of the farmers’ march to the national capital. The latter, last year too, coincided with a countrywide general strike by the working people that was called by the CTUs.

The farmers and the workers must carry forward the “united struggle” to its “logical conclusion of decisive defeat of this retrograde policy regime,” the adopted declaration read, adding that it was a fight to “save” the nation and its people.

“There are challenges before the working-class movement no doubt. But we are carrying on our united struggle [in] combating those challenges,” the declaration further said.

Said Amarjeet Kaur, general secretary, AITUC, said, “The common people of the nation are in distress due to the anti-farmer, anti-worker policies of the present regime. The trade unions, through their protest, must make the central government realise this reality.”

While addressing the delegates, including government, bank and insurance employees, she said that the “unity” developed between the workers and farmers must be further strengthened in the days to come.

Tapan Sen, general secretary of CITU, called the workers’ resistance programme “Mission India”. According to him, the struggle was not only to save the rights and livelihoods of the people but also to save the country’s economy and the entire democratic system.

“In the upcoming days, every working person must join the programmes declared by the Central Trade Unions today and proclaim it to the government that the national assets will not be allowed to be sold off. Our slogan is ‘Save The People and Save The Nation’,” he said. 

The joint action programme, announced by the CTUs, includes state-level conventions and joint meetings of the public sector employees unions. Additionally, as part of the awareness campaign at the grass-root level across the country, general body meetings, signature campaigns, among others, have been planned for the month of December 2021 and January next year.

Eager to participate in these programmes, Rameshwar Dayal, 50, was present at the national convention on Thursday. Employed as a contract worker in Delhi Jal Board for the last ten years, he told Newsclick that such programmes often put pressure on the employers to not shirk away from their responsibilities towards the workers.

“During both the lockdowns – last year and this year – I didn’t receive my monthly salary. The contractor does not even pay any bonus to us,” Dayal lamented, adding that “in such a situation, maybe coming together of the whole workforce will help us get what we deserve.”

Asha Nainwal, 63, from Rajasthan’s Bikaner, held a similar opinion. Nainwal, the state general secretary of Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA)-Rajasthan, said she believed that unorganised women workers in her state would be more eager than ever to participate in the upcoming general strike.

“There are 50,000 women home-based workers associated with our organisation in Rajasthan. After the pandemic, a common complaint among them has been the cut in their daily earnings that has eventually pushed them to take up loans to keep running the house,” she said. 

Nainwal added that the main demand of these informal working women was the introduction of universal social security and the implementation of minimum wage rates. “The women will raise their voices; the government must address their issues soon,” she said.

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