Bhopal: Trade unions and farmers organisations in Madhya Pradesh are gearing up for a nationwide general strike on November 26, called by a joint committee of 10 central trade unions, to protest against the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led central government’s policies including new labour and farm laws as well as privatisation of public sector units.
According to the trade union leaders, the strike will be effective in both organised and unorganised sectors of the State.
In the organised sector, coal mines of Singrauli, Anupur, Shahdol, Umaria, Baitul and Chhindwara, along with various power plants of Singaruali—including BHEL unit of Bhopal and Cement plants of Rewa—will have impact of the strike. In addition to this, banks, textiles and special economic zones of the state like Pritampura, Mandideep, Malanpur and Govindpura will also observe the strike, the union leaders said.
As far as the unorganised sector’s participation is concerned, thousands of Anganwadi and ASHA-USHA workers, transport sectors, and 65 Krishi Upaj Mandis will also join the November 26 general strike.
“Major industries and unorganised sectors will observe the strike and they will jointly raise the voice against anti-labour rights bill, anti-farmer laws, and anti-poor laws of the Modi Government," said Pramod Pradhan of Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU).
Several trade unions such as CITU, All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC), Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC), Hind Mazdoor Sabha (HMS), Self-Employed Women's Association (SEWA) have queued up for the strike and preparations are in full swing. However, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) backed Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh is giving a wide berth to the strike.
In addition to this, major trade unions, employees’ organisations in banking, insurance, and railways as well as state and central government institutions would also strike.
The union leaders have urged the business owners in private sectors to support the strike as well.
Meanwhile, the BJP-ruled state is trying to clamp down on the strike by denying permission for rallies and gatherings, alleged Shikha Joshi, member of SEWA and coordinator of Joint Action Committee, Madhya Pradesh.
"We had planned to organise a Mashal Julus with a rally on November 24 in nearly 10 districts of the state to create awareness about the strike. However, the district collectors cancelled all the permission in view of Covid-19 spread," alleged Shikha. "And they will also try to hamper the November 26 strike, but we will not stop,” she added.
She further alleged, "When there were by-polls on 28 seats in MP, political leaders including Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan and Union Minister Narendra Singh Tomar bluntly violated the Covid-19 protocols and conveniently, the state scrapped and sometimes twisted the law despite the surge in Covid-19 cases. But when trade unions are seeking permission to protest against the anti-poor and anti-farmer policies, the government is quelling it in the name of Covid-19 spread," she said.
On the other hand, RD Tripathi of INTUC said, "The labourers have suffered a lot during the pandemic. They walked miles barefoot to reach home. Some died. Thousands have gone jobless. Instead of supporting them in their dire need, the Union government is shamelessly making laws against labourers in the name of reform."
Roop Singh Chouhan of AITUC claimed that the labour laws, which the Union government is scrapping, have come into existence after giving a lot of sweat and blood, and decades long fight. "Hence, we will not let it go so easily and will defend it tooth and nail."
"When nearly 15 crore people have lost jobs since the lockdown and are living in penury, the Adanis and Ambanis have recorded a sharp jump in income during the same time. It proves that the Modi Government is working for the capitalists and not the poor. We will raise the voice of the oppressed class," he added.
For the first time, farmers associations are also supporting a labours strike, and various social activists and farmer leaders including Medha Patkar, Dr Sunilam, Shivkumar ‘Kakka ji’ of Rastriya Kisan Mazdur Mahasangh (RKMM) in Madhya Pradesh have extended their support to the strike.
“The situation of labourers and farmers are degrading with each passing day. The government is not only suppressing them but also taking away their rights by amending and scrapping the labour and farm laws,” said Dr Sunilam, a farmer leader and former MLA.
Thorough this strike, the trade unions and farmers associations are demanding withdrawal of “anti-farmer and anti-labour” bills, deposit of Rs 7,500 in the accounts of all non-tax paying families, provision of 10 kg of food grains every month to families in need, expansion of MGNREGA to provide 200 work days per year with increased wages and implementation of the scheme in urban areas. The strikers also want to end privatisation in defence, railways, ports, aviation, power, mining and finance sectors, stop forced lay-off of employees in PSUs and get provision of pension for everyone.
Despite all odds, farmers from Madhya Pradesh and other states are heading towards Delhi to picket the Parliament.
According to farmer leader Shivkumar Shukla aka Kakka ji, "Farmers from all over the state including Barwani, Khargone, Dhar, Gwalior, Bhind, Morena, Mandsaur are heading towards Delhi despite all difficulties. They are eager to register their displeasure over the recently passed farm laws.” He further said, “The government will try to stop us midway but we will fight till the end."
"We are against the way the central government undemocratically passed three agricultural laws in an empty Parliament when opposition MPs had boycotted the proceedings because of an undemocratic conduct of the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha businesses. These laws are completely against the farmer community and worker community and are in favour of the corporates," Shukla added.