Kolkata: Preparations are in full swing in the city for the November 26 general strike call by 10 central trade unions. From bustees (slums) to middle class colonies, from daily wagers to medical representatives, the response has been very positive, say the organisers.
“This is the highest response that we have seen in the past nine years in any campaign programme,“ said Abdur Rauf, member of State Secretariat of the Kolkata Bustee Federation, an umbrella body of different such dwellings in Kolkata.
He said 90% of bustee residents were unorganised sector workers and daily wage earners and most of them were “wholeheartedly” supporting this strike.
Elaborating on the difficulties in mobilising unorganised sector workers in the past few campaigns, Rauf said reaching out to them was a difficult proposition. However, in this year’s strike, “we have able form small squads and in 90% of cases have been able to reach out to most workers.”
Price rise is the issue that is hurting bustee residents the most, Rauf said while talking to NewsClick, while taking part in a huge rally in Kolkata on Monday in support of the Nov 26 general strike.
On the other side, medical and sales representatives under the umbrella of FMRAI (Federation of Medical Representative Association of India) and another organisation, Ration Dealers Association, have also come out in support of the strike. Interestingly, the Ration Dealers Association, which has Trinamool Congress Sougata Roy as a patron, has decided to support the strike and wear black badges in protest.
Meanwhile, FMRAI general secretary Shantanu Chatterjee narrated the sorry plight of medical representatives and sales representatives, saying that many of them were getting default notices and were being harassed by private banks for being unable to pay EMIs for personal and home loans.
The talk about moratorium or COVID relief by private or even some public sector banks banks is just hogwash, he told NewsClick.
Vishnu Tiwary, a customer care manager in a bank, corroborated the matter, saying that post-COVID the bank default rate was “abnormally high”, adding that strong-arm tactics were also being used for loan recovery, leaving government promises on loan waiver and part assistance only on paper.
“This is not default” said Chatterjee, highlighting that the loans were given to salaried persons whose job had been eaten away in the COVID situation.
“We are fighting a tense situation in the state. Though the popular perception is that the health industry is on a high, the fact is that barring COVID-19 and some other ailment drugs, the pharma industry is reeling under the COVID crisis. There have been pay cuts, incentive cuts and job losses in the industry, said Chatterjee, adding that the new labour code reforms were also hurting medical representatives badly.”
Talking on the general strike, CPI(M) leader Rabin Deb said: “It is the fight of all these sections together that will be reflected in the in the general strike.”
Torch Rally in Kolkata
On Monday, hundreds of people, holding torches and mashaals walked the streets of Kolkata, raising slogans in support of the seven-point demands of workers being raised by the November 26 general strike.
Hundreds of people from all sections of the society crossed the heart of the Kolkata with torches and marched five km from Dharmatola Lenin Statue basement to Hedua. Among those who participated were various trade union and Left party leaders.
Members of central trade unions marched with their respective flags, urging people to make the strike a success. Congress-led INTUC State Working President, Pradip Bhattacharya, also appealed to the ruling Trinamool Congress trade union, INTTUC, to join the strike.
Later, Anadi Sahu , General Secretary of Centre of Indian Trade Unions, West Bengal Committee, announced in Hedua that on November 26, the working class was determined to make the strike a success and no transport will roll out on that day in the state, nor will any shops and establishments open that day.
Farmers and agricultural labourers, too, will take to the streets on November 26-27, he added.