Fewer Jobs, Lower Wages: Workers Flay Centre for Neglecting their Interests
Workers from multiple states including West Bengal, Karnataka, among others, gathered at Ramleela Maidan on Sunday. Image clicked by Ronak Chhabra
New Delhi: The monthly wages of the industrial worker Komal Kant Prajapati, who has had to switch four jobs in the last ten years, are so low that he could never afford to call his wife and five-year-old son to live with him in Haryana’s auto hub Manesar.
Instead, Prajapati, 35, chose to share a room with four other workers and skips a meal on some days – all in an attempt to save some money, which can be sent back to his family living back in a village in Uttar Pradesh’s Ghazipur district. “The tough fight to survive has only got tougher now,” he told NewsClick on Sunday. “I lost my job last month. With no work in hand, I have no other option but to leave the city,” he added.
The struggle of Prajapati illustrates how workers in the country continue to reel under the pressure of a weak economy which has failed to ensure an adequate income for its labourers over the years and is now failing even to create enough jobs. To register their protest against not just this, hundreds of them, led by one Delhi-based Mazdoor Adhikar Sangharsh Abhiyan (MASA), gathered here at Ramleela Maidan on Sunday.
MASA is the coming together of around 16 sectoral unions and federations across the country. As such, workers from different states including Bihar, West Bengal, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, and Haryana, among others, had gathered to press for a six-point common charter of demands.
Among their major demands include a declaration of Rs. 26,000 per month as minimum wage for all workers across the country, provision of Rs. 15,000 per month as a subsistence allowance to all the unemployed, and repeal of the four “anti-worker” Labour Codes.
Hare Krishna Mathur, 43, hailing from West Bengal’s Purulia district, shared Prajapati’s pain and frustration but is still refusing to throw in the towel even though ever since the pandemic erupted two years ago, woes of this agriculture worker have only compounded. “I think I will be working all my life, but won’t be able to save any money to live peacefully even in my old age,” he lamented while speaking to NewsClick.
Capturing this view, MASA in a memorandum submitted to President Droupadi Murmu on Sunday, underscored that “persistent inflation-unemployment-starvation” are pushing thousands of workers to “die by suicide”.
Moreover, “Workers’ legal right to unionisation is being criminalised. Scheme workers such as Bhojanmata, Anganwadi workers, and ASHA workers are being indiscriminately exploited by the government. Workers’ basic rights to ‘Permanent Jobs for Permanent Work’, and ‘Equal Pay for Equal Work’ have [also] been incessantly diluted in the recent past and are now being completely abolished,” the memorandum added.
The Central and the State governments are “shamelessly” providing their “unconditional support” to corporates today, Shyambir of Inqlabi Mazdoor Kendra, one among the constituents of MASA, told NewsClick, on the sidelines of Sunday’s demonstration. “To highlight this, today’s protest was called in which workers from different sectors took part,” he said.
A “Mazdoor Aakrosh” rally to Rashtrapati Bhawan was also called, Shyambir added, but it was only barricaded by the Delhi Police after permission for the same was denied.
To be sure in the backdrop of the passage of four Labour Codes in 2020 and the recent surge in the prices of essential commodities, similar demands have been raised by multiple trade unions in the country over recent years. According to them, the new legislation, which is yet to be implemented, is aimed at diluting hard-won workers’ rights, and hence, could trigger unrest across industries.
Meanwhile, on Sunday, MASA also demanded the stopping of the privatisation of public sector enterprises, noting that these institutions, “which were built using public resources and taxes paid by common people, are now being handed over to these capitalists so that they can profit from them.”
Universalisation of the Public Distribution System (PDS), along with healthcare and education provisions for all workers was also demanded, as slogans against the Narendra Modi – led Central government were raised.
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