New Delhi: Furthering their alliance for shared struggles, farmers’ organisations and central trade unions on Thursday announced the observance of May Day or Labour Day jointly at the protest sites at the entry gates of the national capital and across the country. The farmer leaders maintained that the May Day would also be celebrated at villages and mohalla level to avoid any big congregation or rally given the severity of the pandemic.
Ashok Dhawale, President of All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS), who attended the meeting, told NewsClick that the roadmap for state- level coordination between the two groups has also been worked out for future actions.
“The workers have traditionally marched in big numbers across the cities to remember the heroic struggles for the right of eight hours of work. Considering the COVID surge and an incompetent government failing to provide emergency healthcare facilities, we decided that there would not be any congregation or rallies. We would ask our units to observe the day at local level” he sadi.
Dhawale said workers, who create the wealth, and peasants, who are the productive class, are both under attack from the current regime. “They brought four labour codes and three farm laws nearly at the same time. So, the opposition has to be a combined one. The meeting agreed to take action on five points; scrapping farm laws, scrapping labour codes, legal guarantee of minimum support price as per Swaminathan Commission, repeal of the Electricity Amendment Act and stop privatisation of PSUs. I think it is a landmark decision that the farmers and workers are coming together to fight,” he added.
When asked how the farmers’ organisations were planning to conduct the struggle amid a raging pandemic, Dhawale said: “The situation is grim and deaths have meteorically risen. It is also correct that our struggle may prolong now. But it must not be forgotten that the talks have stopped for more than three months now. The Centre lost a golden opportunity to resolve the crises through dialogue. So, it cannot blame others. It failed farmers first, and is now failing citizens. As far as farmers’ organisations are concerned, we are very much determined that we will only return once the farm laws are repealed come what May.”
Kulwant Singh Sandhu, President, Jamhoori Kisan Sabha, told NewsClick that farmers’ organisations have called an All India Convention on May 10 at Singhu Border where they would announce future programmes. “For now, we have decided to celebrate Labour Day together. Similarly, tributes would be paid to Banda Bahadur Singh who carried out massive land reforms in 17th century Punjab.”
When asked how they intend to continue the agitation as the current COVID wave would take months to subside, Sandhu said: “We are taking every step to prevent the spread of coronavirus. We have arranged oxygen cylinders, ambulances if anybody complaints the symptoms. People who are asking us to suspend the agitation must understand that coronavirus could kill us in one go but these farm laws would kill us every day by inflicting a thousand wounds. We do not desire such death,” he added.
The organisations also came down heavily on the lacklustre policy in dealing with the pandemic which resulted in ever increasing number of preventable deaths. Tapan Sen, General Secretary, Centre for Indian Trade Unions (CITU), told NewsClick that the vaccination policy, in the midst of the pandemic, was designed for super profits for private players.
“Never has vaccination in the country been deregulated in such a manner for the profiteering of the private sector. This is why we have demanded a free and universal vaccination policy. It must also be remembered that public sector companies which could produce these vaccines were completely ignored in last seven years and no attention was paid to their revival,” Sen added.
In a joint statement by central trade unions and Samyukta Kisan Morcha, the unions said: “Such destructive and barbarous policies are very much reflected in cruel insensitivity of the Govt in addressing the second wave of Covid Pandemic causing numerous preventable deaths throughout the country and the tragically inadequacy of public health network –the grievous fall out of privatisation oriented as well as dismantling and weakening of public health care system. Added to that is the retrograde Vaccine policy announced by the Modi Govt to promote profiteering in vaccine sale at the cost of lives of people. The meeting denounced such barbarous policy of the Govt which is failing in meeting the challenge of Pandemic and demanded scrapping of the pronounced vaccine policy and ensuring free mass universal vaccination for all.”