Delhi: Thousands of Workers to Assemble at Mahapadav on August 9 to Oppose Privatisation, Labour Codes
Several workers and activists affiliated with different central trade unions and federations gathered at BTR Bhawan in the national capital on Saturday to announce a Mahapadav at Jantar Mantar on August 9 to oppose rampant privatisation and unofficial implementation of four labour codes. The participants maintained that it has become imperative to come along and mobilise workers to save their livelihood which is currently facing the double assault of inflation and unemployment.
Virender Gaur, president, Centre of Indian Trade Unions Delhi, who was addressing the meeting said that it is very essential to understand that both governments, Delhi Government led by the Aam Aadmi Party and the Union government of the Bharatiya Janata Party, are taking anti-workers measures at an unbridled pace.
He said, “The question of privatisation is looming large on our heads. If we take the examples from the Delhi-NCR region, we saw a successful struggle at Central Electronics Limited (CEL) where workers won their fight to save this precious public sector undertaking from privatisation. We are witnessing similar struggles at Container Corporation of India, Life Insurance Corporation of India, New Delhi Municipal Corporation, and even Delhi Jal Board where I worked for 38 years.”
Talking to NewsClick at the protest, he said, “The most prominent example that we are witnessing of imposition of privatisation is through companies being deprived of human resources. There is no direct employment even when it is clear that 100 average employees are retiring per month.”
“When I started my job at Delhi Jal Board, it had a 35,000-strong workforce. Now, it has been reduced to 14,000 workers. It is happening at a time when the length of water and sewage pipelines has multiplied several times. The needs of the city have multiplied. It is interesting that it has a workforce of 14,000 workers whereas it has 17,000 pensioners. So, we held this convention to finalise the charter of the campaign and mobilise thousands of workers at Jantar Mantar where students, young people and people from all walks of life will join us,” said Gaur.
When asked about the efficacy of Jantar Mantar as a site for Mahapadav to build pressure, Gaur emphasised that it does have an impact and government will have to listen. “Wrestlers have been sitting at Jantar Mantar peacefully and its impact is such that PM Modi who would speak for hours on trivial issues has not uttered a word on the women wrestlers and their accusations regarding sexual harassment. It will be a historic struggle to remember in Delhi.”
Birju Nayak from Mazdoor Ekta Committee who is representing unorganised sector workers at the convention told NewsClick that the workers in Delhi are facing a strange phenomenon post-pandemic where wage rates have reduced significantly forcing both men and women in the family to seek work.
Talking to NewsClick, he said that the minimum wage in Delhi for unskilled workers is Rs 17,234 per month whereas they are only getting only Rs 9,000-Rs 12,000 per month. It has forced women in the family to seek work. “It is perturbing for the workers as health and education of them and their children are impacted. We just had a story of one worker who said that he has been visiting Employees State Insurance Hospitals since childhood. In childhood, he never heard that workers were asked to come again to campus to get medicine or buy them from chemists from their own pocket. Now, it is quite rampant,” he claimed.
Nayak added that the denial of rights to workers has exposed their children to the world of crime. He explained, “We are seeing increasing cases where young people in bastis are resorting to crimes to meet the ends. It’s a less discussed topic but children are ending up in Tihar Jail and becoming professional criminals. Had their parents been paid well and their health and education taken care of, we could have saved them.”
Dharamender Kumar Verma, general secretary, Trade Union Coordination Centre (TUCC), told NewsClick that the living and working conditions of women workers are more exploitative when it comes to the unorganised sector. “We know that women are very much affected by inflation as they handle household chores. Gas cylinders are expensive, grocery items are expensive and so are even matchbox sticks. When they move to factories, they face discrimination and received lower payments. Domestic workers have told us stories that they cannot use the toilets in apartments which they clean. Does PM Modi not know about our plight? He says he used to sell tea. We never saw it but we know that he is selling railways. Workers are infuriated and coming to Jantar Mantar on August 9 in large numbers.”
Sidheshwar Shukla, who coordinates among the unorganised sector workers, said that the central trade unions and federations have been finalising plans to hold dharnas at labour commissioners’ offices and district magistrate offices in the next three months and finally hold a Mahapadav in the month of August to oppose labour codes, privatisation and for other demands. “It’s the first anniversary of the Mundra fire where workers died. There are questions about the safety of workers, their livelihoods and conversion of perennial posts turning into contract jobs, displacement of workers in contract-based jobs. All trade unions felt that we should come to a stage to call for action. Today we held this convention as part of a larger plan and we will hit the streets in large numbers,” added Shukla.
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