A few kilometers away from the Indian Parliament, every nook and corner tremble to sound of Inquilab Zindabad (love live the revolution). A sea of red flags and banners rise in tandem to warn the government- give us our rights or leave the power! Occasionally dancing on the tunes of revolutionary songs, these workers are highly determined. Neither the Delhi’s polluted air, nor the media blackout could dampen their enthusiasm.
Around one lakh workers from across the country are in New Delhi on a 3 day protest sit in against the anti labour policies of Modi led Central government. This will be the biggest such protest - popularly known as a ‘mahapadav’ - in the Capital in decades and comes as a culmination of years of discontent and repeated betrayal by the govt. in considering increase of wages, protection of jobs and provision of basic rights like affordable food, healthcare and education, Newsclick reports.
This unprecedented 3 day call comes after the workers’ protests at Parliament in December 2013. There have been two countrywide general strikes in 2015 and 2016 on these demands, besides militant strike actions by coal, steel, port, transport, tea estates workers, and a series of protests by anganwadi workers/helpers, ASHAs, mid day meal workers, etc. Govt. employees too have been on the war path with several actions in the recent past.
Except the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS) affiliated to Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and close to BJP led central government, all major trade union are supporting the mahapadav call. Most big federations of employees like steel, coal, port and dock etc. as well as bank, insurance and govt. employees are also participating. An important contingent of the protest is what are called ‘scheme workers’ – over 50 lakh workers, mostly women, employed by the govt. to run diverse govt. schemes like anganwadis, mid day meals for schools, healthcare delivery workers etc.
The trade unions have put forward a 12 point charter demands:
- Urgent measures for containing price-rise through universalisation of public distribution system and banning speculative trade in commodity market
- Containing unemployment through concrete measures for employment generation
- Strict enforcement of all basic labour laws without any exception or exemption and stringent punitive measures for violation of labour laws.
- Universal social security cover for all workers
- Minimum wages of not less than Rs 15,000/- per month with provisions of indexation
- Assured enhanced pension not less than Rs.3,000/- p.m. for the entire working population
- Stoppage of disinvestment in Central/State PSUs
- Stoppage of contractorisation in permanent perennial work and payment of same wage and benefits for contract workers as regular workers for same and similar work
- Removal of all ceilings on payment and eligibility of bonus, provident fund; increase the quantum of gratuity.
- Compulsory registration of trade unions within a period of 45 days from the date of submitting application; and immediate ratification of ILO Conventions C 87 and C 98
- Stoppage of Pro Employer Labour Law Amendments
- Stoppage of FDI in Railways, Insurance and Defence.
In addition to these the central trade unions are also demanding the withdrawal of the Land Acquisition amendment bill/ordinance.
The participating trade unions and federations have warned the Modi government to abandon its anti worker and pro capitalist policies or face direct action by the workers, including an indefinite strike. The unions have asked the workers across the sectors, including the railways to prepare for the direct action programmes till the government accept their demands.