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Central Trade Unions to Join SKM’s Call for Nationwide ‘Grameen Bandh’ on Feb 16

Accusing the Centre of pushing relentless privatisation, the Joint Platform of CTUs said they would join the farmers through sectoral/industrial strikes.


New Delhi: In a significant development, the central trade unions (CTUs) announced their support to the nationwide rural strike or Grameen Bandh call on February 16 by farmers’ collective Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM).

In a joint press conference here on Wednesday, the CTUs said that they would join the farmers through sectoral/industrial strikes. The CTU leaders maintained that the government did not only betray the farmers of the country by denying them the minimum support price (MSP), as per the recommendations of Swaminathan Commission, but it was also pushing relentless privatisation of public sector undertakings (PSUs) and denying the workers a liveable wage.

Addressing media persons, Harbhajan Singh from the Hind Mazdoor Sabha said that workers from all sectors would participate in the strike, be it power, coal or defence. “Railway employees have also extended their solidarity to us and they have already announced their strike in March against privatisation of trains and integrated coach factories,” he said.

Listing our grave concerns over privatisation in strategic sectors, such as defence, Singh said, “What’s perturbing is that the Central government is trying to privatise the defence sector through amalgamation of 41 ordnance factories into seven corporations. The big capitalists are already eying the prime land worth Rs 1 lakh crore in major cities.”

The HMS leader said people of the country were “very angry over the looting of public assets, which was seen in five major national strikes in the past 10 years. The workers of coal fields went on strike for three days. Similarly, employees of ordnance factory boards observed a five-day complete strike to oppose corporatisation. It was unprecedented in the history of Independent India.”

Commenting on the sorry state of workers’ rights under the present regime, the trade union leader said: “We are seeing a stagnation in the capital investment from abroad. Thus, the thrust of the government has shifted to sale of precious public assets which were created through the toil of thousands of workers and common taxpayers’ money. In the name of ‘ease of doing business’, they brought four labour codes which are highly tilted in favour of employers and employees have literally lost their entire social security. The workers cannot go on strike. When defence workers threatened to go on strike, the government brought in the Essential Defence Service Ordinance to prevent them from mass action. Now, they are threatening everybody with such legislation. This is unacceptable to us!”

Vijoo Krishnan, general secretary, All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS), talking to NewsClick on the sidelines of the conference, said SKM convened its convention in Jalandhar on Tuesday and concluded that a tractor rally would be held jointly by farmers and workers on January 26 at all district headquarters. “Similarly, we will observe a complete rural bandh on February 16 to demand a law on MSP,” he said.

The AIKS leader accused government officials of “simply lying when they suggest that FCI (Food Corporation of India) is already giving 1.5 times of the cost incurred in agriculture. They are referring to A2 + family labour, whereas we are asking for 1.5 times the comprehensive cost.”

He said farmers of Andhra Pradesh were incurring losses worth Rs 13,000 crore in one paddy season alone. The previous BJP government in Karnataka demanded the Centre, also ruled by same party, declare MSP for cotton at Rs 12,000 per quintal, but the Union government only announced Rs 6,620 per quintal, he added.

Satyawan, who was representing the All India Kisan Khet Mazdoor Sangathan, said farmers had decided that they would not trade in anaj mandis (wholesale grain markets) as part of the strike.

“We are already conducting a Jan Jagran Yatra which is intended to reach 12 crore households. Our farmers will visit every door to tell people that the (Narendra) Modi government has foregone loans worth Rs 14.98 lakh crore of big capitalists but has no money to provide us MSP,” he added.

He claimed that it was these policies that “drove more than four lakh farmers in last 20 years to suicide.

In a joint statement, SKM and the Joint platform of Central Trade Unions said, “This government is continuously carrying on barbarous onslaughts on the lives and livelihood of the toiling people as a whole and aggressively pursuing anti-worker, anti-farmer and anti-people measures through various legislations, executive orders and policy drives. It is unconstitutionally denying the rights of elected state governments. It is suppressing all democratic assertions of various sections of the people and all voices of dissent. It is continuing with the dangerous game plan of communalizing the polity and constitutional institutions, utterly misusing and abusing administrative authorities and agencies. The Union Government attacks freedom of Media and shamelessly protects the criminals accused of sexual harassment by the victims thus eroding the trust of the people on law and order.”

The CTUs and SKM reiterated their “resolve to take up the historic responsibility to counter and defeat the communal corporate nexus through intensified campaign among the people and intensified struggle till the above demands are achieved.”

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