[As lakhs of workers gear up for a historic All India Strike on January 8-9, called for by ten central trade unions, NewsClick brings to you glimpses of the lives of industrial workers in different parts of the country.]
PATNA: With the January 8-9 workers’ general strike just three days away, leaders and workers of Left parties and their trade unions in Bihar are in the final stage of preparation, including holding meetings, door to door visits and contacting as many workers inviting them to join the strike in urban as well as in rural areas.
In the last two days, trade unions and workers’ unions have held state-level meetings twice in Patna, as well as district and block-level meetings to discuss the final preparations. The unions have also reviewed the report from the ground, based on the response of workers and labourers for the strike against the BJP-led NDA government’s anti-workers’ policies.
Unlike other states across India, in the backward state of Bihar which is devoid of big industries and manufacturing units, the focus of the trade unions and workers’ unions are to prepare workers and labourers mainly from the unorganised sector like construction, agriculture and small manufacturing units, as well as thousands of contractual workers engaged by the state government in the health and education sector.
Trade unions in the state including All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC), Centre of Indian Trade Union (CITU), Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC), All India Central Council of Trade Unions (AICCTU), Trade Union Coordination Centre (TUCC), Hind Mazdoor Sabha (HMS), etc., as well as different federations and associations of workers have been jointly organising workers for the first general strike of 2019.
Ganesh Shankar Singh, state general secretary of CITU, Bihar, told NewsClick, “The workers’ strike on January 8 and 9 is going to be a massive one as workers and labourers in both the organised and unorganised sectors are restless, unhappy and angry. Our preparation for workers’ strike is full and we are hopeful that it will be a historic one, as the response received so far has been much more than expected.”
Singh further said, “After holding a state-level joint convention of trade unions on November 22 last year in Patna, we have been conducting joint conventions and meetings in district, block and panchayat levels till date to mobilise workers and labourers for the strike. We have jointly organised conventions in all 37 districts to most of the blocks in last December, distributed 20,000 pamphlets and 5,000 posters in connection with the strike.”
ASHA and Anganwadi Workers
He said thousands of contractual workers including ASHA (Accredited Social Health Workers), Anganwadi, Mid-Day Meal cooks led by CITU, AITUC and others will also join the strike. “ASHA workers in Bihar have been on strike from December 1 and Anganwadi workers have on strike from December 5, demanding for their genuine rights including minimum wage and other facilities. They will join the country wide workers’ strike on January 8-9.”
CPI (M) state secretary Avadhesh Kumar said, “The workers’ unions of transport, construction, drug and chemists, fisheries to rickshaw and other sectors are going to join the strike. Besides that, banks, LIC (Life Insurance Corporation), GIC (General Insurance Corporation), Central government employees’ associations and Bihar government employees’ associations have also decided to join the strike.”
Kumar told NewsClick, “This time, there will be a rural strike also as Kisan Sabha and Khet Mazdoor Union are preparing farm workers and labourers engaged in different development projects in addition to MGNREGA (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act) workers, who are fighting for minimum wage rights. We have jointly given a call of gaon bandh (rural strike), to raise the issues of distress sale of paddy, farm workers and their rampant migration.”
He said left parties including Communist Party of India (Marxist) [CPI (M)], Communist Party of India (CPI), Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) [CPI(ML)], Socialist Unity Centre of India (SUCI), Forward Bloc and Rashtriya Lok Samta Party (RLSP) have given a call for a state-wide 'Bihar Bandh' on January 9 over various issues including the deteriorating law and order situation in the state, farmers’ loan waiver, crimes against women and old age pension to all above 60 years.
CPI state secretary Satyanarayan Singh said, “We have jointly appealed to like-minded opposition parties to join the workers’ strike on January 8 and Bihar Bandh on Jan 9. We are hoping for their full support as all people’s organisations to workers’ and labourers’ bodies are in support of the strike.”
Arun Mishra of CITU said, “Bihar will witness an unprecedented protest and a complete shutdown with workers and labourers from all sectors including farm labourers in rural areas will be joining the two-day strike. Mishra said workers and labourers would stage protests rallies and dharna from panchayat to blocks, sub-divisions, districts and state capital.
The 12-point charter of demands that the trade unions have come up with includes urgent measures for containing price-rise and unemployment, universal social security cover for all workers, minimum wages of not less than Rs. 18,000 per month with provisions of indexation, stoppage of disinvestment in Central/State PSUs and strategic sale, 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, among others.