Hundreds of locals are lining up in the streets as the workers’ long march passes through localities in different districts of West Bengal. Some are handing out food to the marching people, others are giving water bottles. Families are putting chairs out in front of their homes for the marching protesters to rest for a few minutes. Some of the locals are even joining the march as thousands of workers, students, youths, women, farmers, and agricultural workers walk towards Kolkata, where the march will culminate on December 11, and a large-scale public meeting will be held.
Students’ Federation of India (SFI), Democratic Youth Federation of India (DYFI), All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA), All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS), and All India Agricultural Workers’ Union (AIAWU) have all extended their support to workers’ long march that has been organised under the banner of Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU). The march has been organised with the slogan ‘Save Public Sector’, against the Modi government’s ongoing spree of privatising public sector undertakings (PSUs), and with the demands of industrialisation in the state and employment for all. The march is also a protest against the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP’s) proposed implementation of National Registry of Citizens (NRC) across the country. The people taking part in the march have announced that they will not under any circumstances accept the NRC.
A worker from Durgapur Steel Plant told NewsClick, “When I told the other workers in the factory that I was going to take part in the long march, they expressed their complete support. All of us could not participate in the march because the management would not allow it. But my co-workers said that they will cover for me. All of us know that this is not a struggle that will benefit just individuals. When we win this fight against the government, and we will, the lives of all the workers across the state will change.”
Talking about the workers’ long march, Anadi Sahoo, state secretary of Bengal CITU had told NewsClick, “The BJP government at the Centre is trying to sell all public sector undertakings. 56 PSUs in our state have been closed down and sold already. In a similar manner, the state government has closed down several PSUs and merged some with others. If this keeps going on, lakhs of people will lose their jobs in the near future. Neither the central government nor the West Bengal state government have paid any heed to one burning question—what will happen to these workers who are losing their jobs because of privatisation?”
The long march will cover the remaining distance to Kolkata on Tuesday, December 10. The workers have been marching for 10 days now, but they are not tired. Instead, they are hopeful. A worker from Chittaranjan Locomotive Factory told NewsClick, “We have seen hope on the faces of the locals as we passed through Bardhaman, Hooghly. Those faces gave us strength to continue walking. The people of the state, those who could not participate in the march, are all counting on us. This is a fight for our rights. The long march won’t go in vain.”
Also read: West Bengal Workers March 283 km in Protest Against Privatisation