The long march in West Bengal, started by workers from the industrial belts across the state on November 30, has entered its third day. The workers are marching under the banner of the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU). Thousands of workers, along with women, students, youths, farmers and agricultural workers started the march from the Chittaranjan Locomotive Factory in Paschim Bardhaman district, against the government’s ongoing spree of selling and privatising public sector undertakings (PSUs). The march will cover a distance of 283 km over a period of 11 days, culminating in a public meeting in Kolkata on December 11.
The demands of the workers’ long march include industrialisation in the state and employment for all. The march is also a protest against the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP’s) proposed implementation of National Registry of Citizens (NRC) across the country. Talking to NewsClick, Anadi Sahoo, state secretary of CITU West Bengal, said, “The anti-worker, anti-people economic policies of the Modi government at the Centre and the Trinamool Congress (TMC) government in the state is snatching away the livelihoods of the workers. With each PSU (public sector undertaking) that is privatised, hundreds, sometimes thousands, of workers lose their jobs. This march is to remind the people in power that the workers will not remain quiet.”
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He added, “We are also demanding loan waivers for farmers, and the government to ensure that farmers receive minimum selling price (MSP) for all their products. The working class people across the country are struggling to stay alive as the rich people continue to get richer.” He added that apart from the Chittaranjan to Kolkata long march, workers are also holding smaller marches across the state. Another long march will start from Malda on December 1 and culminate in a huge meeting in Siliguri on December 10. He said, “As we march towards Kolkata, more and more people will keep joining us from every corner of every district we pass through.”
Sahoo said, “The BJP government at the Centre is trying to sell all public sector undertakings. A total of 56 PSUs in our state have been closed down and sold already. In a similar manner, the state government has closed down 46 PSUs and merged some with others.” He said that both the state government and the central government are indifferent to the plight of the workers.
Tapas Ruidas, a 27-year-old man who is taking part in the march, said, “I have already travelled to several other states in search of work. My father is a daily-wage labourer, but he is getting old. He won’t be able to continue working for too long. In every state I visited in the past, I met young workers from West Bengal. They all had only one thing to say – we had to leave our homes because there is no work in our state.”
As workers march towards Kolkata through different districts of the state, they are also preparing for and spreading word about the all India industrial strike on January 8. Geeta Bauri, a woman participating in the march said, “We will prove that the government cannot continue to ignore thousands of protesting workers.”