Report from Kamgar Ekta Committee (KEC) correspondent
As part of the All-India 2-day General Strike, electricity workers belonging to various organisations that have come together in the Maharashtra Rajya Veej Karmachari, Adhikari, Abhiyanta Sangharsh Samiti (consisting of 26 organisations and unions) as well as of the Maharashtra Rajya Veej Kantrati Kamgar Sanghatana Sanyukta Kruti Samiti organised a two full days demonstration and gate meeting at MSEB Office, Wagle Estate, Thane to protest against the anti-worker policies of the government. More than 300 workers, including many women workers, participated in the meeting on the first day. They were happy to welcome representatives of people’s organisations, Kamgar Ekta Committee and Lok Raj Sangathan, who had come to extend their support to the workers. The booklet, “Why Monetisation, Corporatisation and Privatisation are Harmful to You” that was brought out by the 82 member AIFAP (All India Forum Against Privatisation) was eagerly received by those who had yet to get their copy.
The meeting started with spirited slogans of unity which expressed their determination to fight for their rights. It was addressed by various leaders of the unions and organisations, including Com. Leeleshwar Bansod, leader of the Maharashtra State Electricity Workers Federation and AITUC, Bansod, Com. Bhanushali and Com. Amol Kadam, leaders of SEA (Subordinate Engineers Association Com. Amita of the Mahila Aghadi as well as by Riya of the Kamgar Ekta Committee and Dr. Sanjeewani Jain, National Vice President, Lok Raj Sangathan.
Before the speeches, some workers who had left a union that had betrayed them by withdrawing from the strike were given a rousing welcome to the strike action. A wonderful atmosphere of unity between regular workers, officers and engineers as well as those who have been employed on contract or through outsourcing, prevailed. Com. Bansod openly told the contract and outsourcing workers not to fear consequences of joining the strike and assured them that they would fight unitedly and save them if the authorities tried to harm even a hair from their head! Another thing that he said really touched people’s hearts: “We may be backward in the economic sense, but we are not backward in our thoughts. All of us belong to the same jaati, that of being a workers!”
Leaders spoke about the ill effects of privatisation and about the betrayal of workers’ and people’s interests by all the parties that had come to power. It was recognised that privatisation is the agenda of the billionaires and crorepatis, both Indian and foreign, who fund various parties. Electricity workers are fully aware of the “power” they have due to the nature of their work, and firmly expressed their determination to fight together unitedly. The power that electricity workers wielded can be compared to that of those who serve only the poorer sections of our people, like the ST workers, anganwadi workers, and government health workers who are being totally ignored by the authorities. The determination of the electricity workers can be judged from the fact that even application of MESMA (Maharashtra Essential Services Maintenance Act) did not faze them or prevent their strike. They knew that the government is powerless in front of their unity.
They quoted examples of recent successful struggles that have been waged by their comrades in the electricity sector in UP, Uttarakhand, MP, Chandigarh and Puducherry. In Jammu and Kashmir, the workers went all out to win the support of the consumers, and that is why the struggle could succeed there despite the Army being brought in by the government and despite sub-zero temperatures. The declaration that “If they could fight in freezing conditions, we will fight and win in this blazing heat!”was greeted with loud cheers.
Com. Bhanushali talked about the attempts of the authorities to browbeat the workers by phoning them on the day before the strike. He declared that the strike was totally successful, power generation in the state had plummeted and the voltage was dropping. He confidently declared that that very day, the arrogant government that had refused to even talk to them despite giving the notice two months earlier, would soon be brought to its knees, that very day! (This actually happened later on, as we have reported in the Press Release of the unions)
Com. Amita declared that the Company is like our mother, it feeds us and clothes us, and as her children it is our duty to ensure that she does not fall into the hands of greedy profiteers.
Dr. Sanjeewani Jain lauded the electricity workers from all over the country who had come together overcoming all barriers of party and union affiliations. She declared that it is an example to us, the people not only of our country but also of the world. All of us are educated and we understand that this strike which is undoubtedly going to be a big success, is a part of our long term struggle. We know that what is there in our country is not the rule of the people. If it were, crores of people would not have to be repeatedly on the streets, demanding what is their rightful due. We have to closely look at this political system which totally disempowers us and discuss and work out the changes needed to empower the working people, so that we could build a society that our martyrs had laid down their lives for.
When the day long program concluded, the participants left, determined to make the next day even more successful.