New Delhi: Pitching for solidarity among all sections of the working people amid rising protests across the country, 10 Central Trade Unions, barring the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh-backed Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh, on Friday gave a nationwide call to observe a one-day general strike on November 26.
The call comes in the wake of a spate of protests raging across the country by workers, peasants and sections of government employees against the Centre’s “onslaught” on the “basic democratic and constitutional rights” of the working people and the enatctment of “anti-worker” labour laws.
The central trade unions underlined the necessity to further intensify these struggles in a National Convention of Workers, held online on Friday, and vouched for a united resistance by all “in the form of defiance and non-cooperation.”
“The Narendra Modi–led Central government has no qualms in sacrificing the interests of workers, farmers and all toiling common people of the country for the benefit of the corporates,” the central trade unions said in a press statement, adding that such policies would aggravate impoverishment and further deepen the crisis triggered by COVID-19 and an unplanned and sudden lockdown.
Among the signatories to the statement are Congress-backed INTUC, socialist HMS, Left-backed AITUC, CITU, AIUTUC, TUCC, AICCTU, LPF, UTUC and womens’s union SEWA.
The central trade unions attacked the Centre for imposing an “unplanned lockdown” which brought untold miseries to crores of migrant workers. “The economy of the country came to a standstill, unemployment, especially of women, climbed to all-time highest levels, while the GDP shrank as never before,” the statement read.
Even “frontline warriors” – doctors, nurses, sanitation workers, anganwadi, and ASHAs among others – were unspared by the Centre’s apathy and were “treated shabbily”, said the trade unions. It may be recalled that several doctors, nurses and health workers have been agitating in many parts of the country due to unpaid salaries during this period
The trade unions also pointed out that it was amidst these “traumatic conditions” that a National Education Policy (NEP) for “wholesale privatisation” of education was introduced by the Narendra Modi-led BJP government, as also the controversial reforms in the form of Labour Code and Farm Laws that were rushed in Parliament in the form of Bills.
While calling for the withdrawal of these controversial “reforms”, the unions reiterated their demands for cash transfer of Rs. 7,500 for all non-income tax families and 10 kg free ration per person per month for those in need. Expansion of the rural employment scheme to provide increased working days also found a mention in the seven-points demand list.
Extending full solidarity to the farmers’ stir against the new agricultural trade laws, the central trade unions also noted the spirited fight being waged by the employees of the state-owned companies against the Centre’s privatisation “frenzy”. In the convention, two resolutions were passed in solidarity specifically with the continuing struggle of coal and defence workers.
Against the introduction of commercial mining, trade unions in the coal sector had observed a three-day work strike in July, which saw participation of as many as 5.3 lakh coal miners.
Meanwhile, the 82,000-strong defence workforce has also decided to go on indefinite strike from October 12, to press for the withdrawal of the Centre’s move to corporatise the Ordnance Factories Board (OFB).
Both these government decisions, against which protests erupted, were part of the Centre’s Atma Nirbhar Bharat package, which included, in response to COVID-19 brought economic disruptions, a boost to private sector participation in key industries.
The coronavirus pandemic has taught India a lesson in self-reliance, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said in June, while urging the industry to take bold decisions to turn the “crisis into an opportunity.”
“What is this “opportunity” that PM Modi talked about,” said Amarjeet Kaur, general secretary, All India Trade Union Congress. “It is actually taking all the anti-worker, anti-farmer and anti-people decisions while taking advantage of the pandemic situation,” she said in her address to the convention.
Tapan Sen, general secretary, Centre of Indian Trade Unions, said that the one-day general strike would serve as a token action for the “multiple day strikes” in the days to come. “The working people will not allow PM Modi to destroy national assets and go against the will of the people,” he added.