Supporting the call for the two-day national strike by a joint platform of central trade unions and employees’ federations – including All India State Govt Employees Federation (AISGEF) – the Jammu and Kashmir Co-ordination Committee of Trade Unions (JKCCTU) and Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) held protests on January 8, 2019, across Kashmir.
Demonstrations were organised by CITU in Budgam, Pattan, Baramulla, Shopian, Anantnag, Kulgam, Kupwara, Bandipora, Manasabal, Ganderbal and Handwara. The charter that has been put forth by the unions, against the backdrop of the workers’ strike, includes demands such as urgent measures for containing price rise, unemployment through concrete measures, stringent punitive measures for violation of labour laws, 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.
Mohammad Yousuf Tarigami, state secretary, Communist Party of India (Marxist), while addressing the rally, expressed serious concern over the plight of the working class that is badly hit by the neo-liberal economic policies pursued by the central and state governments. He said, “These policies are affecting the workforce across the country including our state. Recently, Modi government approved amendment to the Trade Unions Act of 1926. The proposed amendment reveals the government’s dubious intention to impose conditions of slavery on the working people. This will also give a platform to the government to interfere in the state-level and central unions.”
The present government which is pro-corporate is reversing the rights hard-earned by the labour unions, opined the protesters.
The two-day strike is part of the continuous struggle against the anti-worker and anti-people policies of the BJP-led government.
Protesters raised slogans against the apathy of the government towards the working class. One of the protesters told Newsclick, “The state government is not serious about implementing the labour laws in letter and in spirit. As a result, a large number of workers and labourers do not receive the financial support and other due benefits from the J&K Labour Department and Building and Other Construction Workers’ Welfare Board.” The process of registration with these departments has been made tedious, and some workers are waiting for their registration for over two years.
Similarly, benefits like a scholarship to children, marriage assistance, and financial support in case of a death or a chronic disease of a labourer never reach the beneficiaries in time, said the protester. Some of the state-specific demands of the protesters included simplification of the registration process along with the online system, means to avail manual submission of the application forms and immediate release of financial assistance without any delay or excuse.
They demanded that SRO 105 that deprives hundreds of labourers – associated with quarrying and construction – of livelihood, be made pro-workers.
Protest of the Jammu and Kashmir Co-ordination Committee of Trade Unions:
While speaking to the reporters, national secretary of AISGEF and president of JKCCTU, Mohammad Maqbool, said that Modi regime has created a havoc, which is affecting people. “It is affecting especially the working class that is facing severe crises due to the policies promoting privatisation, outsourcing, contractorisation, and attack on hard-earned right of social security such as pension, labour rights, wage cuts and freezing of permanent jobs.”
Criticising Governor Satya Pal Malik, Maqbool said that the administration has failed to focus on employees’ and workers’ issue despite many requests made by different departments.
“The government has totally ignored many departments such as Public Health and Engineering under which about 30,000 workers are awaiting regularisation and release of pending salaries,” he added.
Many employees of the Power Development Department have reportedly died while on the job. However, their families can’t stake a claim to any compensation due to the contractorisation of their work. The power department has recruited around 3,405 casual workers in the state.