of the nationwide two-day strike of workers
28-29 March 2022,
supported by the Samkyukta Kisan Morcha
During the last three decades, the life, livelihood and rights of the working people have been under multi-faceted attacks due to the Neo-liberal economic policy of the central government and the conspiracy of corporate-government alliances. This was tried to be slowed down through joint protest actions of the working class of the country, but the pre-election assurance given to the corporates of ensuring better Ease of Doing Business further intensified the attacks by the present government.
Due to the anti-people and pro-corporate policies, the standard of living of the toiling masses was already in deep crisis before the corona pandemic. Despite this, by making ‘disaster into an opportunity’ during the Corona epidemic, the Central Government continuously took such steps in the interest of corporates of the country and abroad, that the lives of students, unemployed, youth, women, unorganized workers, employees, farmers and small traders etc. were devastated.
# On the one hand a large section of the student community is unable to get higher education due to privatization of education and educated, unemployed youth are looking for jobs, while on the other hand, due to the adverse impact on employment and work conditions at workplaces, such as lock-down, layoffs, pay cuts, increased hours of work, etc. unorganized labourers, urban self-employed poor, working women are unable to meet the basic necessities of the families. Representing production and consumption status, the growth rate of the Indian GDP is the lowest among major countries. In contrast, the wealth of big corporate houses has increased by up to 40% during this period.
# During the Covid pandemic, marginalized sections like migrant laborers had to face the inhuman face of the government. On the other hand, the poor state of public healthcare resulted in thousands of unavoidable deaths; massive privatization of healthcare left the public to corporate plunder. In the initial stage the government put mass immunization into private hands, but due to public pressure and the decision of the judiciary it had to back down. 100% production and 25% business of COVID Vaccine has been left for profiteering. On the one hand free vaccination is being shamelessly promoted, while on the other hand high excise and taxes of petroleum are being justified for so called free vaccination. PMCARES fund collection and allocation also remains questionable. The so-called package of Rs. 20 lakh crore has been exposed as a fraud in the name of providing relief to the poor. The actual expenditure from the exchequer for that package is only 1.5% of GDP, as the balance is actually just a loan with a government guarantee.
# During the second wave of Covid, the earnings of 23 crore workers were reduced below the statutory minimum wage (which was already lower than the Supreme Court directives and the recommendations of the International Labor Conference), resulting in a frightening level of hunger among the working people, with India falling to 101st place on the Global Hunger Index out of 107 countries. The income gap of the rich and the poor has widened to an alarming position, with the richest one percent accounting for 70% and the poorest 50% having only 10% of the total income. Nearly half of the population has been pushed below the poverty line.
# On the other hand, under the guise of “Minimum Government, Maximum Governance” and under the cover of the patriotic popular slogan, “Self-reliance” strategically important and profitable Public Sector Undertakings like Railways, Defense Production, Banks, Insurance, BSNL, Steel, Coal Mining, mineral resources, petroleum and natural gas, power, airlines and airports, ports, highways, telecommunications and postal services etc. are being sold by the Central Government to their preferred corporates in the name of disinvestment. Corporate tax rate is being continuously reduced, tax payment time relaxation is being given, huge loans are being given to corporates and subsequent loan repayment by willful defaulters is being waived, thus releasing the loan. Banks giving the loans are suffering huge losses. Now a plan is being made to hand over these banks to the same corporates. All these things are adversely affecting the exchequer, and the monetisation of national assets (NMP) is being implemented to overcome this crisis. (Handing over national highways, trains, railway stations, transmission lines of power grids, hydroelectric projects, pipelines of gas and oil companies, etc., for corporate loot for a fixed period of time for a nominal amount).
# On the contrary, there has been a huge cut in the budget allocation for social security schemes MGNREGA, ICDS, etc. under the excuse of paucity of funds; appointments in government and public sector undertakings have almost come to a standstill; due to outsourcing, scheme workers, jobs under contract, not only has the quality and dignity of jobs deteriorated, but the hope for reservation of jobs for tribals, scheduled castes, backward classes and others has vanished.
# Government employees have already suffered huge losses due to the National Pension System (NPS). NPS is now also applicable for non-employees by way of individual contribution. The huge NPS fund is being taken out of the supervision and regulatory control of the Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority (PFRDA). As a result, with no government control, huge amounts of social security and public savings are being exposed to corporate profits and the speculative market, increasing the risk of insecurity for retired senior citizens.
# Not only this, three anti-people laws related to agriculture and agricultural trade in corporates service have now been repealed after the agitation. Four labor codes have been passed, repealing 29 labor laws along with the Electricity Amendment Bill and the Motor Vehicle Amendment Bill. The sole purpose of enacting the Labor Code, in favor of the employers, is to completely destroy working conditions and legal rights, right to collective bargaining and trade union rights and to extend the working days.
# The prices of essential commodities are skyrocketing. The policies of the government are solely responsible for this price rise. On one hand discriminatory direct tax policy has been made to benefit the rich and on the other hand, heavy indirect tax is being imposed on common people through high GST rate, excise duty, cess, etc. Petrol, diesel, gas prices are hiked almost on a daily basis, which is having a massive impact on all goods, public transport and other services. About half of the government revenue is coming from fuel. High service tax on almost all public utilities, including health, medicine, education, etc., is contributing to the intensity of the crisis.
# The working class has been fighting against this tyrannical and destructive policy from the very beginning. After the historic struggle, the joint forum of farmers’ organizations has won the initial victory and is still fighting for the 6-point demands including the statutory MSP and, joint movement and action of trade unions and farmers’ organizations all over the country against the destructive anti-national policy have reached a new high. The constant struggles of the trade unions have also brought some results. After the spectacular strike of bank employees, the proposed bank privatization bill in the winter session has been postponed. The proposal for privatization of electricity distribution company in UP has been shelved after the agitation, the government has banned the privatization of Central Electronics Limited (CEL). The heroic struggle against the privatization move of Vizag Steel has become a national issue. Similarly, the struggle is going on in the coal, steel, insurance sectors as well. Railway workers, postal and telegraph workers are also on the path of struggle and most importantly, the four Labour Codes have been postponed due to the continuous struggle.
# But there is no room for complacency. The exemplary struggle against the move to privatize ordnance factories was ended in an authoritarian manner through the “Essential Defense Services Act, 2021” (EDSA). No step was left by the government and their agents to malign and quell the peasant struggle. Along with the destructive policy in economic matters in the interests of the corporates, the government is also crushing all constitutional norms including basic parliamentary provisions, by adopting authoritarian measures, showing hyperactivity in destroying democratic governance. Arrest, detention, sedition section UAPA etc. are being used by the government to suppress dissent and protest. Simultaneously, every effort is being made by the government sponsored communal divisive forces to divert people’s attention to non-issues and to divide and polarize people on the basis of communal, casteist divide. So this is not the time for just symbolic protests. Rather, it is a time of persistent resistance and defiance.
# In order to ensure the defeat of the regressive policy of authoritarian governance and the corporate class and their agents in governance, we must take the joint struggle of the workers and farmers to its logical conclusion and for this our slogan should be: “Save the people – Save the country”. In the same sequence, it was decided in the All India Labour Conference organized in Delhi on 11 November 2021 to go on a two-day nationwide strike against the pro-corporate changes in laws and economic policies, the pathetic condition of livelihood of the working masses, inflation, unemployment and public sector disinvestment, privatization and loot of national assets and attacks on democratic rights.
The main demands of the 2-day nationwide strike on March 28 and 29, 2022:
01) Repeal 4 Labor Code (LABOUR CODES) and the Essential Defense Services Act (EDSA);
02) Fulfill the 6 point demands of the Samyukta Kisan Morcha;
03) End privatization, disinvestment and NMP (National Monetary Pipeline) efforts in any form;
04) Ensure income and food assistance of Rs.7,500 per month to families outside the purview of income tax payment;
05) Ensure increase in allocation for MGNREGA and expansion of employment guarantee scheme in urban areas;
06) Ensure legal and strategic protection for informal sector workers and gig workers;
07) Ensure statutory minimum wages and social security for employees of schemes like Anganwadi Asha Sahyog, mid-day meal;
08) Ensure the regularization of contract workers and scheme workers and equal pay for equal wages;
09) Cancel NPS; implement the Old Pension Scheme; ensure a substantial increase in the minimum pension amount under EPS;
10) Ensure proper protection and insurance facilities for the frontline workers serving the people during the pandemic;
11) Reduce central excise duty on petroleum products and ensure effective measures to check price rise;
12) To revive and improve the national economy, public investment should be increased in the areas of agriculture, education, health and other important public facilities by taxing the rich through wealth tax etc.
Other pending demands of the United Front and Independent Federations
INTUC, AITUC, CITU, AICCTU, AIUTUC, HMS, JWU (Jharkhand State Non-Gazetted Employees Federation), FMRAI, AIBEA, BEFI, NCBE, IEAJD, ….