On the second day of the general strike called by the industrial workers under the leadership of 10 national trade unions brought the country to a standstill today.
Speaking to Newsclick, Tapan Sen of the CPI(M) said, “Yesterday, more than 20 crore workers had taken part in the protest. Today, on its second day, coverage of the strike further widened. Workers joined the strike spontaneously, and are determined to save the country. This strike is not just for the rights of the workers, but also to defend the country's interest.”
Workers across multiple spectrums gathered in the heart of Delhi to send a strong political message and a warning to the future governments that anti-worker policies and the dilution and the trampling of their rights will not be accepted.
Targeting the BJP government, Brinda Karat, Polit Bureau member of the CPI(M) said, “The BJP government has time and again proved that it is anti-worker and anti-farmer. To demonstrate their resolve against the government, 10 central trade unions and workers have come together. The Modi government has brought a series of policies to dilute workers’ rights.”
Referring to the upcoming fixed wage legislation, she added, “They want to bring a job loss economy, where only the employers yield power. The need of the hour is a policy shift, where workers are at the heart of the economic policy reforms.”
Shakuntala, an old sanitation worker from Kapashera region, who took part in the march today, said, “I have come here today only to make my voice heard, and to seek some solidarity and hope. I want to ask how should I pay my rent? How do I pay for my grandchildren’s school fees? There are days we all go to bed on an empty stomach because none of us are paid enough or on time.”
Another home-based worker from Jahangirpuri, Aarti, said, “Over 100 women have come here with me today because we are tired of being invisible in the eyes of the government. We are home-based workers, not covered under any policies. Does the government even know we exist?”
Speaking to Newsclick, E S Kumar, a railway worker said, “Looking at all of us come together gives me enormous power. We have multiple concerns such as the pension delays, issues of job security and more.”
Kavita Krishnan, Polit Bureau member, CPI(ML) said, “It is on occasions like these that one gets to realise the value of labour which otherwise remains invisible. MCD workers stopped cooperating, and there was water shortage in some areas. This was needed to point to the kind of lives our workers lead.”
She further questioned, “What is the point of work if the workers can’t feed their families, and they have to run from pillar to post to save their lives?”
Highlighting the issues that push the workers to the periphery of the society, Hannan Mollah said, “The condition of the workers is such because of rife contractualisation. Another major concern for the workers is no provision for minimum wage.” He went on to assert that the Modi government and its policies are anti-farmer and anti-worker.
On January 8, workers apart from industrial workers, unions and associations of agricultural workers, plantation workers, scheme workers, construction workers, vendors etc. also participated in the strike.
With the workers’ strike and farmers’ march, momentum across spectrums is building up against the Modi government, and is likely to have a massive impact with only about four months to go before the general election.
The call for the workers strike was given by the trade unions in September 2018 during the national convention of the central trade unions pointing out, that “the government policy of mass privatisation of strategic PSUs, crucial infrastructure and public utilities, especially targeting the ports, airports, telecom, financial sector etc with defence production and railways thrown open for 100 per cent foreign direct investment is causing severe damage to the rights of the workers in India”.
Thumbnail Image Courtesy: Aman Khatri