Dear Brothers and Sisters,
We salute the working class, farmers and toilers of our country! They braved all odds such as ESMA, EDSA, Court orders, huge wage cuts, etc. and militantly participated in the two day All India strike of 28th and 29th March 2022 to make it a huge success!
More than 20 crore people participated in the All-India General Strike of 28th, 29th March 2022, across sectors – Public Sector enterprises, Government Departments, private sector including MNC’s, small and medium enterprises, Asha, Anganwadi, domestic workers, construction workers, beedi workers, hawkers and agricultural workers. The Samyukta Kisan Morcha organized farmers in the rural areas in support of their six demands as well as support to the workers’ strike.
Banks, insurance, coal, Vizag Steel and other steel plants, petroleum and LPG, oil and natural gas, copper, telecom sector, cement workers, port and dock workers (in Paradip and Tuticorin) completely struck work.
The Kerala High Court had prohibited BPCL and Government employees from going on strike. Since BPCL is immediately targeted for privatization, the management had imposed arbitrary punitive charges of 18 days wage cut for two days strike! It also threatened to take action against workers who went on strike. Braving all this, the BPCL Cochin refinery workers went on a two-day strike opposing privatization of BPCL and supporting the demands of the national general strike.
Workers of Electricity distribution companies all over the country boycotted work for two days. The boycott was complete in the Northern Grid covering U.P., Uttarakhand, Haryana, Jammu and Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh, in the Western Grid covering Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Chhattisgarh, in the Eastern Grid covering Bengal, Jharkhand, Bihar and some states in the North East, in the Southern Grid covering Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and Puducherry.
The electricity workers of Maharashtra were threatened with ESMA (Essential Services Maintenance Act) but they militantly continued their strike. The power generating company workers in Maharashtra also joined in. This resulted in a power shortfall of 9000 MW and faced with the impending power crises the energy minister was forced to call the striking workers and give a written assurance to them that the Maharashtra Government would not privatize electricity in the state, that it would withdraw any cases imposed on striking workers under ESMA and also agreed to many other demands of the striking workers.
The Haryana Road Transport workers also went on strike defying ESMA imposed on them and picketed bus depots right from early morning of March 28th 2022.
The Railway workers came out in active solidarity at more than 1000 places all across the country and there were massive rallies in Mumbai, Bhatinda, Hyderabad, etc.
The Defense workers defied EDSA (Essential Defense Services Act) and demonstrated in large numbers in all the ordnance factories across India to support the two day strike.
As all of you know, AIFAP worked hard for the success of the strike. We arranged meetings from our platform. We gave due importance to encouraging the participation and leadership of women, who are half our population and crucial to the success of our struggles. Our website actively and promptly carried reports before and after the strike.
The two-day national general strike was in opposition to the anti-people, anti-national policies of the Central Government and raised demands in favour of all the working people.
Now we the workers are faced with the threat of additional attacks. The Central Government has recently announced that the land of central public sector enterprises will be pooled together and sold to corporates, interest rate on provident fund has been slashed to 8.1% from 8.5 %, privatization of public sector banks will be speeded up, a bigger amount of LIC shares will be offered to Indian and multinational corporate investors, etc.
We, the workers have regularly carried out All India general strikes to show our opposition to the government’s policies. However irrespective of the party in power, none of these demands were satisfied and now the Central Government is going full steam ahead on fulfilling the agenda set by its corporate masters. So, the question that arises is what should we the working class do in this situation?
Firstly, it is clear that it is possible to defeat the plans of the government. This has been clearly shown by the electricity workers of India. In the last 4 months itself, strikes by electricity workers in Jammu & Kashmir, Puducherry and now latest in Maharashtra have halted the proposed privatization in these states as well as won their other demands. A few months ago, the electricity workers of Uttarakhand and Madhya Pradesh went on strike and forced the government to address their long pending grievances. In all these states, the electricity workers had built their Joint Action Committees involving all the unions and, in many cases, they were supported by electricity workers from all over the country. When the workers’ unions actively went among the people and explained why privatisation is against the interests of all electricity users, people too came out in strong support. These are important lessons for all other sectors.
Secondly, we the workers cannot restrain ourselves to only opposing the policy of privatization, liberalization and globalization. We have been doing that for the last 30 years. We need to challenge this program of the capitalist class with an alternate program which we can place before the people of India.
The elements of this program are already being brought forth by the Indian working class. The electricity workers have declared that “Electricity needs to be treated as a fundamental right in the 21st century and not as a commodity to be sold for corporate profit.” The banking and insurance workers have declared that “People’s Money should be utilized for People’s Welfare!” AIFAP was formed with the slogan “Public assets built with people’s money cannot be sold to corporates!” Railway workers have declared that “It is the duty of the Government to provide cheap and comfortable travel to the majority of its population and the operation of the trains cannot be handed over to private monopolies for making profit!”, etc. These demands have to be collected together from all sectors and presented to the people of India as the alternative program of the working class.
We would welcome your opinions and suggestions on this issue!
Dr. A. Mathew
All India Forum Against Privatisation (AIFAP)
2nd April 2022