Fifty-year-old Noorjahan, a resident of Bawana JJ Colony, is a single mother and looks after her five kids all by herself. She earns Rs 6,000 a month, and has been finding it increasingly difficult to run the household with this meagre amount. “The situation is so bad due to this increasing inflation and especially after the COVID-19 lockdown that I have had to get my kids to drop out from their school. I do not have enough money to pay for their fees as well as pay the rent every month. The mustard oil now costs Rs 200; you can not buy any vegetable for less than Rs 100. I am being forced to beg for money to feed my family,” said Noorjahan, while speaking to NewsClick.
Noorjahan was one of the hundreds of protesters who had gathered today in Central Delhi to raise their voice against the undeterred inflation. She was joined by several other women, workers, students, youths, teachers, and artists who became a part of the cycle rally in the national capital.
The rally, which started from Ramlila Maidan, crossed Ajmeri Gate and turned into a public meeting at Turkman Gate. It was accompanied by many vehicle-borne protesters as well as pedestrians. While it was supposed to culminate at Jantar Mantar, the police did not allow it to proceed citing security concerns.
The protest was supported by and saw participation of Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), Janwadi Mahila Samiti (JMS), Democratic Youth Federation of India (DYFI), Students’ Federation of India (SFI), Dalit Shoshan Mukti Manch (DSMM), Democratic Teachers’ Front (DTF), All India Lawyers’ Union (AILU), All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS), Janawadi Natya Manch, and Janwadi Lekhak Sangh (JLS) among other organisations.
The meeting at Turkman Gate was addressed by CITU national president K Hemalata, CITU Delhi State general secretary Anurag Saxena, and JMS Delhi State general secretary Asha Sharma, among others. Hemalata, while speaking about the challenges faced by the working class, asserted that the struggle has to be further sharpened and strengthened. She appealed to the protesters to exhibit their unity on November 25 as well by making the strike to be observed on the day successful. “We need to build pressure on the government to secure our rights,” she said.
Speaking to NewsClick, Saxena said that CITU has been organising such cycle rallies in the industrial belts of Delhi to mobilise workers ahead of the November 25 strike. Several rallies organised between October 16 and 31 have already raised issues such as sky-high prices, increasing inequalities, and sinking wages as well as employment.
Sharma lambasted the government for its “shamelessness” and said, “Amid this inflation, the government wants to stop providing free ration to the workers instead of helping them tide over this crisis.”
One 24-year-old Pawan, who rode his bicycle from South Delhi to participate in the rally, said that he has been personally affected by the rising inflation. “I am a student and I am staying away from my family to prepare for civil service examinations. I have been dependent on the money that my family sends to me. But for quite some time now, because of increased prices, I have been struggling to make ends meet. I have been forced to cut down on my expenses on many essentials including food,” he told NewsClick.
Pawan, a student from Munirka.
A student leader from Delhi University SFI, Unnimaya, who had also joined the rally, said that while the prices of food as well as rents at the paying guest facilities have been increasing, income of the students’ parents, on the other hand, has been decreasing.
Bablesh, who works for a private cable company, had come to raise his voice from Noida. He said, “I receive Rs 8,800 -- an amount, which is lower than the minimum wage. How can I sustain myself and my family? I have not been able to send my 13-year-old daughter to school.”
Bablesh, a worker from Noida.
He added that his employer had sacked 15-20 workers without any notice just before Diwali and told them that they will be called back if and when there’s any requirement.
Salim, a passerby, who had not come to participate in the rally, too, told NewsClick that he has been suffering due to the price rise as well. “I am an autorickshaw driver and it has become extremely difficult to make ends meet. It’s a good thing that people have taken to the streets. We really need to raise our voices now.”