Four trade unions, Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), Hind Mazdoor Sabha (HMS), All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC) and Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS), have given a call to observe a day’s strike on April 16, 2018, to protest against the step to open up commercial mining of coal.
Though the Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC) opposes the commercialization of coal mines, they will not be the part of the strike. Instead of participating in joint agitation, the workers of INTUC, affiliated Indian National Mineworkers Federation, would work on doubling the production. Also, the members would wear black badges to work.
The trade unions had served the strike notice to the Coal Secretary on March 13. “As the government is unwilling to reconsider the decision on commercial coal mining, we have no other option except to go on strike,” read the notice which was served by the unions.
Before the protest, on April 16, the four trade unions will also jointly hold a convention in Dhanbad on April 4 to mobilise the workers and trade union members.
The BJP-led Centre had approved the methodology for the auction of coal mines which opens up coal mining for the private sector on February 20, 2018. Though the government termed it as the “most ambitious coal sector reform since nationalization of this sector in 1973”, trade unions pointed out that it would be leading to total privatization of the sector and it would destroy the nationalized coal companies; Coal India Limited (CIL) and Singareni Collieries Company Limited (SCCL).
“Though the document suggested that there is no need of new external entities to meet the Coal Vision 2030, Government has gone ahead with their policies, of course, to crack down the nationalized Coal industry,” DD Ramanandan, General Secretary of All India Coal Workers Federation (AICWF) which is affiliated to CITU pointed out, while speaking to Newsclick.
In the document, Coal Vision 2030, it had suggested that no new coal mines need to be allocated or auctioned beyond the current pipeline. Despite this, the government has moved ahead with the policy which allows commercial coal mining.
Currently, about three lakh workers are employed with CIL and more than 60,000 workers are with SCCL. The privatization drive will be affecting these employees. “If new private companies come to market, their expenditure for salary will be less than 10 percent of their total expenditure as they pay a very meagre amount of Rs 5,000 to Rs 6,000. By exploiting the workers, they can produce cheap coal. Then, of course, the buyers will go for cheap one and it will eventually lead to the termination of state-owned CIL and SCCL,” Ramanandan explained.
While announcing the strike decision, Ramendra Kumar, general secretary of the AITUC-affiliated Indian Mine Workers Federation said that about 2.9 lakh workers of CIL and 50000 workers of SCCL are likely to participate in the strike on April 16.