Highlights of the Speech by Com. G. Devrajan, Secretary, Trade Union Co-ordination Centre (TUCC) in the All India webinar on “Nationwide General Strike on 23rd and 24th February against Anti-Worker, Anti-People Policies of the Government and Way Forward” organized by AIFAP on 16 January 2022

First, I thank organisations and leaders in AIFAP on behalf of TUCC for organising this webinar on the 23–24 February General Strike. Senior leaders have given much information about the reason for organising the strike. Tapan Senji said that after independence, we have done at least 25 general strikes in the country, which were 1-day or 6-hour strikes. Now, we are planning a 2-day general strike. Organised and unorganised workers are mobilizing for the strike. Earlier, strikes were for labour issues. This time, we have a particular slogan: Save the People and Save the Nation, and we have Mission India also. There is Mission UP, Mission Uttarakhand, but ultimately it will be Mission India. We know that the working class might suffer due to the strike. But we have been forced to strike.

More than 400 people participating in this webinar are leaders or office-bearers of organisations. We have no option but to go on a general strike; we have given memorandums, spoken in committees, held conventions, dharnas, organised small strikes, spoken in the parliament and outside, etc. But the government is not ready to listen to us. The government does not care, which was seen in the case of Labour Codes. We have in our country a tradition of a tripartite conciliation system, but that system has also been destroyed by the government. The government should talk to workers’ representatives, like trade unions and federations, before framing policies, but they are not ready to listen.

This is a government that passes ordinances three days before the parliament session. No detailed discussion is done in Subject Committees, selected committees and so their reports are not obtained before passing the laws. No parliamentary democratic way is followed to make laws. They just use their brute majority for that.

But the farmers’ example is before us, they forced the government to bend by a united, hard fight. We have no choice but to strike.

We have leaders and representatives of workers of PSUs here. When the Constitution was created under Ambedkar, “socialism” was not included. Why did we include socialism? Because the country’s assets above and below the ground should be owned and controlled by the people of our country. That is why “socialism” was added under Indira Gandhi. That was why banks were nationalised.

We know that LIC was created with an investment of just Rs. 5 lakh, but it has invested lakhs of crores in the development of the country and given lakhs of crores to the government by way of dividend. How many people depend on this sector! Still, the government is trying to sell LIC. Banks, LIC are people’s assets. But the country’s wealth is being given to private players.

Since 2 years, we are living in a pandemic. Central trade unions have demanded that the government gives free ration and at least Rs. 7500 to people. This money would have immediately come to the market and been used for food, medicine, education of children and supplies. So, demand would have increased, production would have increased and so too with jobs. This is a cycle. That is why we had said that this should be done to ensure that the economy continues to function well.

However, Finance Minister Sitharaman and Deputy Minister Anurag Thakur took a 2-hour press conference where we thought they might promise some money or rations. But they announced that no matter the amount that corporates have taken from banks, the debts will be waived and tax will be waived. So, while we are talking about poor people, the government is giving aid to corporates whose profits were decreasing. From this, we understand whom the government is working for: not the working class but capitalists.

During the second wave, all of us presented the same demand. But the Finance Minister and her Deputy did the same drama. The government announced a package called the National Monetisation Pipeline (NMP). Demonetisation destroyed the economy, jobs of workers, small factories, and people were forced to leave farming. Neither the government nor the RBI has ever presented data about how much money has come, about black money and so on. It can be called the world’s biggest economic scam and will be called that in history. But the National Monetisation Pipeline (NMP) is not the solution.

The government wants revenue. It gets its revenue from direct and indirect tax. But instead of getting the revenue by recovering the crores and crores from the capitalists, the government is planning to sell the country’s assets: banks, LIC, coal, oil, everything is being sold through the NMP. Any sensible, responsible and responsive government won’t do this. At a time when people cannot go to work due to the pandemic, they have lost their jobs and incomes, the government decided to sell our assets. Only a fascist government, a government that cannot understand the people’s suffering, can do this.

People’s money which should be used for people’s benefit will now be used for private benefit. Will privatisation be a panacea solve our country’s problems? They are destroying the Constitution of the country, destroying the lives of workers.

PM Modi announced that the government wants to create a 5-trillion economy with a 2-digit GDP. Through this platform I want to ask, who creates GDP? It is the kisans, workers, employees, the toiling people, those who are in the service sector who create GDP. If you want to rule, you have to think about the suffering and take steps for the welfare of the GDP-makers. If you make anti-kisaan laws, how will kisans create GDP? If you make anti-labour laws and enslave them, will workers be able to create the GDP to fulfil your 5-trillion dream?

This drama is for those who help you, the special people sitting near you, the corporates, for whom the country’s assets are being sold. That is why we are forced to strike. There is no other way.

This is not just a demand for workers, we have to save the country and not let the sacrifices of our leaders and heroes go in vain. That is why we have created the slogan “Save the Country and Save the People!” Mission India is to teach a lesson to the fascist, anti-people, anti-toilers government. We are creating an atmosphere. Through the 23–24 February strike, we want to take this message to all organised and organised workers, the common people. The webinar organised by the AIFAP is a part of that. I hope that leaders present in this webinar will take our battle cry, “Save the Nation and Save the People!” and Mission India to their organisations and people.

Thanks again to the organisers of this webinar for inviting TUCC. Jai Hind!

 

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