Mahapadav/Samyuktha Horata: A Kisan-Mazdoor Historical Unity
For the farmers and workers across the length and breadth of this country November 26 not only holds great significance as our Constitution Day – when the Constitution of India was adopted – but also as both farmers and workers it is a significant day of agitation and protest. On November 26, 2020, the 13-month farmer’s agitation began, while JCTU (Joint Committee of Trade Unions) made an all India general call on the same day in 2021 for a workers struggle in response to the passing of the Labour Reform Bill in September 2020. This year, again from the 26th of November, an all India call has gone out to congregate at Raj Bhawans across the country for 72 hours (26, 27, 28), condemning the Union Government on its anti-people policies.
In Karnataka, the show of strength and long-standing struggle at a Maha Dharani will be held in Bengaluru on 26, 27, 28 of November at Freedom Park. The mass sit-in is both against the Union Government and to pressurise the Karnataka Government to deliver on its commitments. Samyuktha Horata is a joint call by Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM), the Joint Committee of Trade Unions (JCTU) and Janashakthi to forge together a joint front of farmers, workers, Dalits, youth and women’s organisations, expanding the protest to other segments of the population – a historical moment of unity. Badagalapura Nagendra (SKM), H.R. Basavarajappa, Bayyareddy (Samyuktha Horata), Varalakshmi (JCTU) and Noor Sridhar (Janashakthi) lead this demonstration of deep dissatisfaction. Bayyareddi, Convenor of Samyuktha Horta stated, “We don’t have any expectations from Central government, they sold the toiling people’s interest to the Corporates….only way left is to remove them from the power…we are going to take a call on it in this struggle.”
The Congress Party after coming to power in May this year has still to deliver on its campaign promises. The dissatisfaction with the Siddaramaiah and DK Shivkumar Government comes after several failed attempts to meet with and address the state government’s inaction. Kumar Samathala of Land & Housing Deprived People’s Struggle Committee said, ” Governments are changing, but our life is not. Even after Congress came to power there has been no change in attitude. They have not yet called for a proper sitting to discuss the issue.”
Organisers expect a growing swell of protesters to gather at Freedom Park over the three days. The mass protest expects to have 50,000 protestors at this three-day sit-in satyagraha. On November 26 – the day of ‘Sankalp’ – there will be a flag hoisting at 8AM by representatives from a cross section – of farmers, workers, women, Dalit, adivasis, etc. Approximately 5000 people are expected for the Samvidhana Sankalpa at 4PM on the same day to reaffirm their commitment to and the reassertion of the rights given by the Constitution. On the second day of the mass Dharani – the day of ‘Sangharsh’ – the organising networks expect to see a congregation of about 30,000 farmers and workers demanding both Union Govt and State Governments to respond to their 21 demands. A demand letter will be resent to both the Karnataka Governor and CM to come to the protest site to respond to these long-standing demands. Concluding the day’s events an ‘Agni-kunda’ will be lit up at the protest site to demonstrate through the burning of the anti-people bills, acts and laws. Based on the Governor’s and State Government’s response, on the final day, November 28, a united resolution will be formulated regarding the future course of the mass struggle – the day of ‘Sandesh’.
The 3-day Maha Satyagraha is alongside running a ‘Protest Mela’ with cultural events bringing troupes from all over Karnataka; holding photo and book exhibitions, and; featuring documentary films tracing the farmers and workers struggles. The Annadatas and Shramikas will be fed by Sarvadharam Dasoha (a Langar) organised by the Annada Runa Dasoha Samiti under the presidentship of BT Lalitha Naik, from Labour Minister and Socialist.
The Indian Agriculture Acts of 2020, often termed the Farm Bills, were three acts initiated by the Parliament of India inSeptember 2020, and were promulgated via an ordinance by the Union Government. On November 26 (Constitution Day) this triggered what might be one of India’s longest and largest farmer protests in the history of modern India. On 11 December 2021, after repealing the three laws and giving assurances relating to the farmers’ demands that still stand unfulfilled. In Karnataka there Farm Laws have still not been repealed.
The assurances after the withdrawal of the three farm laws have remained unfulfilled, while the anti-workers’ policies remain as law. The laws allow for 12-hour workdays in industries, women to work night shifts and lets overtime extend from 75 hours to 145 hours. The bill amends the Factories Act of 1948, which is a social legislation that was established to ensure the safety, health and welfare of workers at work. Varalakshmi CITU leader said, ”Anganawadi, Asha, Midday Meal women workers are participating in big numbers…women workers are the most unsecured and low paid employees….so it is natural that their participation in struggles is also increasing”.
Some of the 21 demands are: bring in farm produce price guarantee legislation; compulsory waiving of farmer loans; receive pattas for ‘bagair hukum’ lands; receive land rights Hakkupathra (for houses); stop harassment by forest officials; job security for contract workers; to demand implementation of equal pay for equal work; legislation guaranteeing Rs 26,000 minimum wage.
The three days hold the hope and aspirations of a majority of the population of this country. The struggle has been long-standing, the rights sought are critical for not only the survival but also for key sectors of the economy to thrive. The federal structure across the country has the opportunity here to step up and be accountable and responsive.
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