Farmers and workers across Kerala are all prepared for the nationwide general strike on November 26 demanding roll-back of the new labour codes and scrapping of the three new farm laws passed by the Bharatiya Janata Party-led central government. Farmers unions and associations along with trade unions have been campaigning against the “anti-labour and anti-farmer” policies of the Narendra Modi-led government.
Over one crore people from Kerala are expected to be part of the general strike on November 26. Along with farmers, agricultural workers, trade unionists, and employees from unorganised sectors will also be the part of the strike. The ground-level campaigns ahead of the general strike have been concluded. On Tuesday, unorganised sector employees will demonstrate at their workplaces and a day after that, on November 25 evening, workers from all sections would take out a torchlight march at their respective workplaces.
The general strike on November 26 has been called by a joint platform of central trade unions and All India Kisan Sangharsh Co-ordination Committee (AIKSCC). Several independent sectoral federations and associations have extended their support to the general strike and to the Parliament March of farmers—'Chalo Parliament’—in Delhi on November 27.
Along with 10 central trade unions, 13 more trade unions from Kerala will be part of the general strike, said Elamaram Kareem, state secretary of Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) and Rajya Sabha member, in a press Conference on Monday. “About 15 crore migrant workers have lost their jobs and income due to the Covid-19 lockdown. The central trade unions have been demanding the centre to give a financial assistance of Rs 7,500 per month for each worker who has lost income. Along with this, small and medium sector employees are also in a distress,” said Kareem, adding that the negligence of the BJP-led centre led to the steepest contraction of India’s GDP.
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“The centre is advocating for trade union free workplace as per the wishes of capitalists. Then it would lead to no collective bargaining and it would ultimately lead to economic inequality,” he added.
Along with other issues, Kareem has emphasised the privatisation drive of the centre, which has initiated privatisation of Air India, Indian Railways, Ordnance Factories, along with other strategic units across the country. “Even the public sector units in Kerala--Hindustan Life Care, Hindustan Newsprint at Kottayam, Hindustan Organic Chemicals at Ambalamukal, Instrumentation Limited Palakkad, BEML’s Palakkad Unit etc. have also been put on sale. Since the state government along with the trade unions in Kerala has been opposing the move, the units have not been privatised yet,” Kareem said pointing out the dangers of privatisation.
Meanwhile, farmers and workers have held hundreds of protest gatherings all across Kerala ahead of the general strike. Employees from Public Sector Undertakings (PSUs), private banking sector, motor vehicle unions, fisherfolks, among others will also be the part of the national strike.
Farmers in the state have been staging their protest under the banner of Samyuktha Karshaka Samithi, which is the part of AIKSCC, against the three new farm laws. Kerala Karshaka Samithi consists of various farmers organisations including Kerala Karshaka Sangham (Kerala chapter of All India Kisan Sabha), Karshaka Congress etc.
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“We will be part of demonstrations by trade unions. Apart from this, at ward levels, the Samyuktha Karshaka Samithi would take out protest marches. On November 27, the unions and organisations of farmers and agricultural workers will march to the Parliament. Due to Covid-19 protocols and restrictions, nobody from here (Kerala) is going for the march. But we will be marching to central government offices and burning the effigies of Prime Minister Modi at every area centre,” said KN Balagopal, state secretary of Kerala Karshaka Sangham and Convener of Samyuktha Karshaka Samithi, while talking to NewsClick about the ongoing protests of farmers in the state.
Kerala State Karshaka Thozhilali Union (KSKTU), a body of agricultural workers, will also be the part of these protests along with the Samyuktha Karshaka Samithi.
On Monday, Kerala State Tanker Lorry Workers Union, affiliated to CITU, held a human chain in front of the Cochin Refinery of Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited (BPCL) as part of the campaign for national strike.
As motor vehicle unions across the state are participating in the national strike on November 26, public vehicles will stay off roads. However, the trade union leaders have stated that the necessary services would not be affected.
Along with the associations and federations of bank employees, the Non Banking & Private Finance Employees Association (NPFEA) will also join the national strike. The employees of Muthoot Finance Employees Union and Manappuram Finance Employees Union, both part of the NPFEA, have been protesting against the “anti-worker policies” of their respective managements. At Manappuram Finance, the employees are on an indefinite relay strike, which entered its 22nd day on Tuesday. They will also be joining the national strike.