This International Workers' Day, also known as May day, is being observed in West Bengal through small red flag hoisting events at factory levels as big gatherings have been cancelled and instead, Covid awareness initiatives are taking place.
Covid-19 awareness programmes were taken up on Saturday to observe May Day at Entally in Central Kolkata, Jadavpur in South Kolkata and Shyambazar in North Kolkata. Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) state president Subhas Mukherjee and state secretary Anadi Sahu along with Kallol Majumdar, Kolkata district Secretary of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), took part in the Covid awareness programmes in different places in the city. The programme was held in a decentralised manner in three places of the city while observing physical distancing norms .
At the CITU state headquarters located in Shramik Bhawan, the red flag was hoisted by organisation president Subhas Mukherjee while state secretary Anadi Sahu and other CITU leaders garlanded the martyrs’ column.
Left Front chairman Biman Basu had on Friday announced that parties within the Sanjukto Morcha will carry on Covid awareness campaign on May Day as the Covid crisis has gripped the state. Such awareness drives are being held throughout the state.
CITU had already informed that this year, owing to the pandemic, the organisation would refrain from carrying out large gatherings, and observe May Day in reduced capacity.
On Saturday, after the May Day programme, Kallol Majumdar alleged that the large-scale Corona pandemic had been fostered through lack of an awareness campaign by the central and state governments and they had failed to take on scientific planning to arrest the disease.
Majumdar further said that instead of addressing the pandemic, the governments went ahead with unscientific programmes and were engaged in vote politics to bifurcate people in the name of race, religion and creed. Meanwhile, the Red Volunteers, with their limited resources, were standing beside the people of the state in this hour of need, he added.
In a virtually televised speech from Shramik Bhawan, CITU general secretary Tapan Sen called on the working class to hold on to their right of eight-hour work amid the pandemic. He pointed out that during the national lockdown last year, around a dozen state governments had curtailed the workers’ right of eight-hour work and extended the working hours to 10 to 12 hours .
Interestingly, in the recent months, majority of those decision has been turned down through protracted fights, which marks a definite victory of the workers, Sen said. He also pointed out that the right to eight-hour work is under attack worldwide from the capitalist class and India was no exception. Critiquing the Narendra Modi government’s increasing privatisation drive, he said that during the pandemic situation, it was the ailing government hospitals and the public health sector that are coming to the help of ordinary people. The private hospitals were charging exorbitant fees making people into paupers, Sen claimed.
Sen further underlined that lockdown as a measure to weaken the pandemic was welcome but not at the cost of weakening the working class’ right to livelihood. “The first lockdown had precisely done that with 14 crore workers and migrant workers being affected by it and more than Covid deaths, people died at greater number in hunger in the country at that time,” he said.
On the other hand, CITU president Subhas Mukerjee and state secretary Anadi Sahu called for cash transfer of Rs 7,500 to all non-IT families in the country and free rationing system during the pandemic. They also called for vaccination in the industries where physical contact is unavoidable such as tea, jute production, banks, steel plants and colliery units.
The CITU leaders also called for universal vaccination in their speeches, which were streamed live on the Facebook page of CITU .