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A joint meeting of the central leadership of All India Kisan Sabha, All India Agricultural Workers’ Union and Centre of Indian Trade Unions was held on 9 June 2020 at B T Ranadive Bhawan, New Delhi. The meeting discussed in detail the current situation of acute distress in the country due to the economic crisis, Covid-19 pandemic, the lock down and the policies and measurers by the BJP government led by Modi.

The meeting took serious note of the aggressive measures to complete the neoliberal process taking advantage of the lockdown – paradigm shift in agricultural economy, finishing off peasant agriculture to benefit the landlord corporate clique through ordinances, endangering food security; near total elimination of public sector; totally liberalised FDI in crucial and strategic sectors of the economy finishing off our self reliance; annulment of all labour laws to impose slavery on the working class and so on. Instead of taking effective measures to contain the pandemic, the BJP government is aggressively trying to centralise entire governance through authoritarian measures and fascistic intent. At the same time RSS led forces are communalising even the Corona pandemic.

The lockdown has created a situation of reverse migration, acute unemployment, deepening absolute poverty and total lack of health facilities, particularly in the country side. It is only the LDF government in Kerala, which has been making internationally acclaimed efforts in containing Covid 19 but also addressing the issues of migrant workers as an alternative to the neoliberal policies.

The discontent of the people against the government is growing, which is reflected in their participation in the independent and joint calls of each sector against the policies of the government. The actions called by CITU on 21 April, 1 May, 14 May and 30 May and by the joint platform of central trade unions on 22 May 2020, the Kisan Samman Diwas on 16 May and protest on 27 May 2020 by the AIKSSCC and the All India protest Day on 4 June 2020 by the AIAWU received magnificent response.

It was decided that AIKS and AIAWU will support the calls of the CTUs, of all India protest day on 3 July 2020 and for non cooperation and defiance.

In this situation, the meeting concluded that there was an urgent need for joint, more direct and visible movements at all levels, especially at the grass root level on burning issues of the people in general, which must be stepped up to combative countrywide united struggles against the anti-people, anti-farmer, anti-worker neoliberal policy regime. There must be more countrywide struggles with series of local struggles preceding and succeeding it.

The meeting decided to launch a nationwide joint campaign on the major immediate demands of the people - health, food, income and employment along with others, highlighting the following demands:

  • Free universal healthcare for all
  • 10kg Free food grains per person per month to all for 6 months
  • Rs.7500 per month for all non tax- paying families for next six months
  • 200 days work in MNREGA @Rs600/- as wages per day or unemployment allowance; Enact and implement urban employment guarantee
  • Rescinding the Ordinances/executive orders on Essential Commodities, Farm Trade,  Electricity Act and Labour Laws' 

It is also decided to address the issues of migrant workers on priority basis.

On these demands, CITU, AIKS and AIAWU who have organised many militant independent and joint struggles in the past including the Kisan Long March in Maharashtra, Mazdoor Kisan Sangharsh Rally in front of Parliament on 5 September 2018 to name a few, will conduct joint campaign to culminate in massive militant actions

Ø  joint campaign up to village level during June – July 2020

Ø  Local/village/sub-divisional level action and mobilisations on 23 July 2020

Ø  Massive countrywide militant mobilisation and action on 9 August 2020

We will strive to develop massive joint struggles of the trade unions, peasant organisations and organisations of various class mass and social organisations against these anti-national policies in the coming days.

Issued by                                                   

Hannan Mollah                        B Venkat                                Tapan Sen 
General Secretary                 General Secretary                   General Secretary
    AIKS                                    AIAWU                                      CITU

The Central Trade Unions (CTUs) in their meeting on 3rd June 2020 congratulated the workers for responding enthusiastically to the nation-wide protest call demanding immediate halt to changes in labour laws, abrogating the rights won over after a struggle of 150 years among other demands. The meeting took serious note of the continuous aggressive attack on the workers’ rights ignoring all the joint representations to the Government on the matter including the nationwide protest on 22nd May 2020.

The Government not only failed in getting its own orders and advisories implemented in regard to payment of wages to workers, no retrenchments to be carried during lockdown period. Instead, it withdrew its own decision in the face of the case in Supreme Court by the employers of some companies. The Government did not heed to the demand of cash transfer of Rs. 7500/- to all non income tax paying households including unorganised labour (registered or unregistered) for the months of April, May, June, neither the demand for Government support to pay the wages of workers of MSMEs for these three months. The ration to all working people for at least six months to be made available universally also did not find favour with the Government. Neither our demand for workers safe journey home paid attention to.

The Supreme Court had to take cognizance finally asking the Governments of Centre and States not to demand passenger fares from workers, give them proper shelter and food till they are transported to their homes. Nineteen High Courts had taken cognizance of workers, frontline fighters and hospital services etc during this period.

We re-iterate that the Central Government chose the cover of COVID-19 lockdown to push through its agenda of disinvestment and wholesale privatisation of Public Sector Enterprises, 100 percent FDI in core sectors - Indian railways, Defence, Port and Dock, Coal, Air India, Banks, Insurance etc., steps in favour Corporates of Indian & Foreign brands to usurp natural resources and business of the country while mouthing behind the slogan of Aatma-Nirbhar Bharat. The earlier decisions and those taken during COVID-19 lockdown on privatization/corporatization/commercialization in Defense, Coal, Space science, Atomic energy, Insurance, Banks and most of the PSUs are being pursued with vigour and arrogance. The decision of DA freeze of 48 lakh Central Government Employees and DR freeze of 68 lakh pensioners, which is also having impact on the state government employees, is not withdrawn despite vehement opposition from Government employees and CTUs.

In this back ground various sections are now in agitation mode. The electricity workers and engineers have jointly observed countrywide protest against Electricity Amendment Bill 2020 on 1st June 2020.  While welcoming the sectoral struggles which are developing in various sectors, CTUs support the protest programmes taken up by Defence federations including “strike ballots” and those in the coal mine sector on 10-11 June 2020.

The scheme workers, ASHA, Anganwadi, MDM, 108 ambulance employees, etc and the nurses and doctors who are in the front ranks among the front line warriors working at the community level for combating Covid 19 Pandemic are agitated for their demands for safety measures not being addressed appropriately and neither they are provided proper health care on falling sick from COVID-19 infection, nor the social security and insurance coverage being extended to the families who are succumbing to the disease. The scheme workers are also being denied payment of honorarium for lockdown period.

ASHAs, anganwadi employees, Doctors, Nurses, Safai Karamcharis, have been in the protests now and then in various parts of the country on similar demands. The CTUs support all these agitations on their just demands.

The so-called 20 lakh crore package of the Government is nothing but a hoax and cruel joke on the suffering people; this mainly comprises of loan guarantee to various sectors and the actual relief package reaching people is not even 1 percent of GDP. Even, previously announced budgetary allocations and welfare schemes such as PM Kisan Samman Nidhi, Construction Workers Welfare Board and District Mineral Funds etc have been unscrupulously repackaged to befool the people.

The Centre of Indian Trade Unions denounces the hasty move of the BJP Govt at the centre engineering  retrograde changes in agriculture-economy in the name of reforms through Ordinance route with the sole intention of benefitting handful of big-landlords and corporate agri-business (both foreign and domestic) clique at the cost of overwhelming majority of the agricultural populace- the small and marginal farmers and the agri-workers in particular. All talks of benefiting and empowerment of farmers to benefit out of freedom of trade is nothing but a fraud on the people. Moreover this is going to severely abrogate the rights of state governments to regulate and intervene in the agrarian economy.

The Cabinet decision to promulgate the 'Farming Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Ordinance, 2020' in the name of complete deregulation of trade on agricultural produce would finally mean that the produce would be purchased without auctions and regulatory supervision by the concerned authority; it would actually mean that sale of the agri-produce will be through bilateral grossly unequal negotiations between large landlord-corporate traders clique on the one side and poor peasants on the other. Such a system would be inherently biased against the interests of majority of the farmers. It is going to facilitate the handful of those in landlord-corporate-business clique to squeeze and exploit more the overwhelming majority of the agricultural populace. This structural change in the agri-trade regime will pave the way for ultimately ending the Govt responsibility of ensuring remunerative prices of the agri-produce and related arrangement of procurement etc— complete facilitation for looting the mass of the farmers by the landlord-corporate clique.

Similarly, the ‘The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Ordinance, 2020’ is going to permanently empower again the big-landlord-agri-business lobby to squeeze and exploit the mass of the small and marginal farmers putting them under continuing distress and thereby continue the stranglehold of the landlord-agri-business clique on the farming population.  The claims that it will empower the farmers by removing all restrictions, and ensure them a level playing field are all bogus and baseless. Amendments to the Essential Commodities Act removing commodities like cereals, pulses, oilseeds, edible oils, onion and potatoes from the list of essential commodities and removing all restrictions and limits on storage and building stock will promote hoarding and patronize speculation and black-marketing, to facilitate and empower the ultra-rich class in the agricultural economy. It is a positive threat to country’s food security.

The entire exercise is aimed at total structural change in the management of the agricultural economy through a process of complete abdication of governance responsibility to ensure basic rights of the farmers for a humane living on the one hand and towards land concentration and consolidation with the handful of landlord-traders clique and promotion of contract farming as well lease of farm land by corporate companies. This is also an exercise of bartering food-security of the people and humane entitlement of the majority of the agricultural populace with the interest of profiteering and speculative trade at the altar of handful of ultra-rich class of the big-corporate-landlord regime. 

CITU calls upon the working class to oppose and protest such nefarious anti-people, anti-farmer machinations of the Modi Govt and join hands with the peasants and agri-workers’ organization to unitedly fight, defy and resist.

( Tapan Sen )
General Secretary

Demanding withdrawl of draconian changes in labour laws , total privatization of PSEs and corporatization of agriculture
Hunger strike, demonstrations, processions and arrests at several places.  Petitions to Prime Minister sent from all over India listing demands

22nd May - Nationwide protest on the call of 10 Central Trade Unions was joined by several other trade unions active at National and State level. A Joint Petition by the  Central Trade Unions(CTUs) was submitted to the Prime Minister via e mail. This petition was simultaneously released all over India by the participating leaders and activists. The petition included the demands such as immediate relief to stranded workers for safe reaching to their homes, food to be made available to all, universal coverage of ration distribution without conditions, ensure wages to all of the entire lock down period, cash transfer of Rs.7500/- to all non-income tax paying households  including unorganized labour force (registered or unregistered or self employed) for at least three months i.e. April, May and June, withdraw DA freeze to central government employees & CPSEs and DR freeze to pensioners, stop surrendering of live sanctioned posts, put a  complete halt to any changes/dilutions in the labour laws, strengthen of the Inter State Migrant Workmen (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Services) Act 1979 to ensure compulsory registration of migrant workers ensuring with adequate protective provisions on wages, social security, accommodation and welfare needs with a strong and accountable enforcement mechanism. They demanded halt to the  policy of wholesale privatization PSUs and government departments through multi-pronged routes like corporatization, outsourcing, PPP, liberalized FDI etc, which were reiterated  and  announced during the package announcements by the FM from 13th May to  17th May 2020 in particular and also in the addresses of the Prime Minister during lock down period.

The employees and workers from independent federations and associations such as banks, insurance, defense, telecom, central and state government employees etc. organized solidarity actions  by wearing black badges in some cases and lunch hour meetings in other establishments and some participating in the action programmes directly. The unions of oil sector in Assam and Arunachal Pradesh were also in protest action. The coal unions in Jharkhand, Chhatisgarh, Odisha, Telengana, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra were in protest action. Hunger strike was resorted to in several states at some selected spots such as in Delhi, Karnatka, Assam, Bihar, Chhatisgarh, Punjab, Tamilnadu, Pudduchery, Orissa Andhra Pradesh. Militant programs were held in Telengana, Jharkhand and Gujarat. Two hours strike was held in some industrial units in Maharashtra. In Tamilnadu the programme was organized in 10000 places with more than 2 lakh people, similarly the programmes in Kerala were organized in 5000 places with participation of more than one lakh persons. In Maharashtra the programmes could be organized in about 36 districts. In Haryana and Punjab the programmes were held in all districts and memorandum submitted to DC offices in several of them. In Odisha also the programmes were organized in all the districts as well as in the industrial ares of Rourkela, Sambalpur,Paradeep or in NCL areas.There were programmes held in Himachal Pradesh and Uttrakhand in major towns and industrial areas. Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan witnessed joint action at several places In Manipur, Arunanchal Pradesh, Tripura also  the protest actions were organized. The workforce in Oil sector in Duliajan in Assam organized a programme of protests. There were reports that though the scheme workers-Aanganwadi, ASHA were on their duties of door to door visits for screening and making data etc. related with COVID 19 despite that they could participate in programmes in several parts of the country.

Workers from various sectors railways, power and electricity,  HAL, Port etc to beedi, plantation,  MGNREGA , sanitation workers, scheme workers   and domestic workers also participeted in the protest.  In addition to these many workers and family members joined the protest from their home.

In Delhi the programme was held in several places including the programe of hunger strike at Gandhi Samadhi,  Rajghat where some of  the national leadership of the Central Trade Unions participated along with the leaders of Delhi units of CTUs. Some of the protesting leaders were arrested and detained in Rajendra Nagar police station. Those arrested included HMS General secretary Harbhajan Sidhu, CITU General Secretary Tapan Sen,CITU President Hemlata,  AICCTU  General Secretary Rajeev Dimri, AITUC national secretary, Vidya Sagar Giri, Ashok Singh Vice President of INTUC, R K Sharma National Secretary of AIUTUC, Jawahar Singh of LPF, Lata Ben and Usha from SEWA,Trilok Singh national leader from General insurance, A R Sindhu and Amitav Guha, secretaries of CITU and Rajender Singh of HMS. They are not yet released.
INTUC President Sanjeeva Reddy participated in the programme at Hyderabad whereas AITUC General Secretary Amarjeet Kaur was part of the procession and then protest at Mini Secretariat in Ludhiana. The  General Secretary LPF Shanmugam attended action in Tamilnadu.TUCC national leaders G Shivshankar and Devrajan were present in the programmes in Karnataka and Kerala.The General Secretary of SEWA, Ms Manali attended programme in Gujrat.
Participants were arrested in Silliguri, WB.

In many states including in Noida UP, trade union leaders were arrested the previous day, to suppress the action. In spite of that workers participated in the strike in massive way. 

In many states the organizations of peasantry and other sections also supported the struggle.

The central trade unions will meet soon to decide on future course of intensified actions.

       INTUC                     AITUC                    HMS                     CITU                       AIUTUC

          TUCC                SEWA                      AICCTU                     LPF                    UTUC

Pittance for suffering masses  ♦  Bonanza for big corporates  ♦  Permanent squeezing of workers

The fifth and final round announcement by the Finance Minister on so called Rs 20 lakh crore ‘relief package’ of Prime Minister is a heartless cruel joke on the suffering people. It does not even provide the required immediate relief from the situation of continuing hunger and destitution.

Out of total Rs 20 lakh crore, a very meager percentage came as direct immediate cash and food support to the immensely suffering jobless, income less, shelter less crores of working people. Lakhs of migrants are either locked down in hutments haplessly or desperately walking along the highways, facing death due to exhaustion, hunger and accidents or police brutality. The BJP government led by Modi has shown inhuman contempt to the basic entitlement for dignified survival of common people, while making noise on so called empowerment. The multi-facet measures the finance minister has announced about so called reforms embracing all the sectors of the economy are aimed at permanently empowering the handful of big foreign and domestic corporates and big business houses, to freely exploit workers to maximise profits.  

Direct cash and food support for the suffering millions, to be funded from Govt exchequer taking together all the announcements by the Govt is not more than even 10% of the total package claimed to be of Rs 20 lakh crore plus.  Whatever direct cash and food support has been announced in different tranches through free ration and cash transfer, has not reached 80% of the needy working people. Around half of the announced quantum of package comes from Reserve Bank of India and not from the Govt exchequer. An overwhelmingly major part of whatever has been announced for industries, MSMEs, and agriculture are in the form of loans and advances from financial institutions in the days to come. It does not immediately reach them. The survival needs of the majority of the populace have been ignored totally. When direct support and loan waiver is the urgent need of the hour, liberalising loan provision in future cannot help in any manner.

Moreover, the Finance Minister’s claim on EPF withdrawal provisions or cash support to construction workers as a part of her relief package is nothing but an act of deception and fraud on people. All these provisions are funded not by Govt but by workers’ own accumulation in their EPF account and the accumulation of cess account in the construction workers’ welfare fund.

Along with this, the series of measures of aggressive neoliberal reforms announced by the Govt announced, instead of strengthening the national economy, will put the country in the track of destruction. They will destroy our manufacturing capability and lead to gradual de-industrialisation.  In the name of self-reliance, measures like liberalisation of FDI and FII, allowing Indian companies to freely list themselves in foreign jurisdictions, leading to increased foreign domination and in many cases foreign take-over, are being announced. This will threaten our self reliance itself.   

This dangerous trend of erosion of self reliance is further aggravated by the policy of allowing minimum one to maximum four PSUs in each strategic sector to be notified by the Govt in future. This Govt has already been acting systematically for destroying almost all PSUs in the much crucial pharmaceutical sector; in defence production sector as many as 40 plus Ordnance factories are being forced to convert themselves in PPP mode paving way for full privatisation, through corporatisation route, there being no ceiling on private equity participation in them as per the new policy on defence production sector. Same design of virtual marginalisation of functional and profit-making PSUs in various strategic sectors like Coal, Airports network, central power utilities, shipyards, Railway production units etc is being actively pursued through hostile policy interventions of the Govt, not to allow them to viably operate. And as culmination to said systematically pursued destructive policy-hostility towards PSUs, obviously to benefit the private players and contractors in the same sectors, today’s policy announcement on PSU is aimed at finally eliminating PSUs from the economic map of the country. And that is going to be biggest disservice and betrayal to the national interests, interests of the people at large only benefitting the international finance capital and the Indian corporates as its junior partner.

The Finance Minister is notoriously liberal in empowering the big corporate not to comply the laws under which they function and operate as seen in decriminalising the offences under Companies Act, grossly relaxing compounding of offences owing to continued non-compliance, easing the bankruptcy resolution process in favour of the debt-defaulters and so on. These are being done in the name of helping MSMEs which is again a deceptive posture to befool the people. Very few MSMEs will be benefitted by such liberal concessions since MSMEs are generally compliant either to their debt obligation or other legal obligations. They actually require direct support and wage support like that given to them in many countries in the world, and did not get anything tangible from these packages. On the other hand, the Govt shamelessly shut their eyes on the gross violation of its own directives regarding non-termination of employment and full payment of wages to workers by the same corporate community and the so called mega-package did not just care about the same. 

Selecting the Pandemic and lockdown time, severely squeezing the space for democratic exercise of debates and dissents for all the above misdeeds involving national interests reflects authoritarian and anti democratic attitude of the BJP government to mask its dubious and destructive intents.

CITU condemns such desperate and destructive neoliberal reforms in favour of private and foreign players which are severely detrimental to national interests. CITU calls upon the working people, all the trade unions irrespective of affiliations as well as all patriotic and progressive sections of the society to raise their united voice in protest against these anti people and anti national deceptive measures. CITU appeals to the entire nation to prepare itself for safeguarding the self reliance of the country and the lives and livelihood of our working people.

Issued by
Tapan Sen
General Secretary 

Amid the shrill noise of self reliance, the fourth round announcement of Finance Minister in the name relief package carried no relief to actually suffering people in the least owing to lockdown. No doubt it is big bonanza to the  private corporate bosses, more foreign than domestic  through facilitating  privatization of defence production by  corporatization route, through opening privatization process of our vital mineral resources like coal and others, privatization of Airports and PSU Airlines, also essential public utility service like the electricity, even Space and Atomic Energy.

At the same time, as has been made clear in her second and  third round announcements regarding country’s labour-  management  land-management, extra liberalism showered through  aggressive move for complete annulment of all labour laws and also  loud talks on liberal availability of land for industries through industrial land bank and other means, promotion of SEZs etc, make it amply clear that the most retrograde reforms programme being ventured by the Govt at the centre to appease the private capital, both foreign and domestic is going to be founded on taking away the lands of the farmers, or forcing them for distress sale who are already distressed through continuing agrarian crisis; on the other hand the misadventure of the Govt is also founded on barbarous sucking of the sweat and blood of the working people at large through promotion of lawless SEZ culture everywhere divesting them of all rights in all the workplaces. Those who produce food for the country and those who produce value for the nation are targeted for barbarous exploitation and expropriation along with desperate auction of  country’s strategic industries, natural and national resources to the detriment of national interests.

The privatization drive in defence production sector through corporatisation route and forcing PPP on the Ordnance Factory net work, together with allowing 74% FDI through automatic route will finally lead to foreignisation of our defence production, rather more dependence on foreign defence equipment companies threatening the security-preparedness of the country. Along with, doing away with technology transfer provisions in the major defence equipment procurement as has already been indulged in infamous Rafael aircraft deal while similar others for naval frigates, submarines, missiles etc being in pipelines –all with major foreign producers—is finally going to make the country’s profit-making defence sector PSUs, shipyards etc

absolutely redundant or make them the junior partner of foreign players. This will also severely erode the self-reliance and make the country dependent on imperialist powers.

The privatization drive in coal and Bauxite minerals sector along with banishing of the captive-mine concept and also allowing 100 per cent FDI through automatic route will finally be having destructive impact on the concerned public sector companies like Coal India Ltd and other in the Aluminum sector, much to the detriment of national interests. Moreover blanket commercialization including exports of these minerals mined by private sector including the foreign players, is finally going to starve the vital industries in our country like  power, steel, aluminum, fertilizers etc   of their essential raw materials needs at affordable prices. 

The Aviation sector has also been thrown in the process of privatization,  including the national carrier Air India and also country’s profit-making airports some of which has already gone to  the chosen and favoured private players.

The country’s electricity sector, the most vital sector delivering essential public utility is being pushed to total privatization, creating a compulsion for the state governments to follow  such disastrous route, through Electricity Amendment Bill 2020 and authoritarian centralization of regulatory power stipulated by it; on the other hand subsidy on household consumers  and agriculture has been announced to be phased out meaning increasing burden on the common people and already suffering agrarian sector.

Utterly notorious has been to open the door of privatization in Space Research and Atomic Energy sector through the so called PPP model which will mean monetization of the fruits of research by our scientist by private players without bearing any cost of the research, nor contributing anything. This is synonymous to plunder on national assets, resources and intellectual property developed by the country with huge investment of public fund.

Selecting the Pandemic and lockdown time, severely squeezing the space for democratic exercise of debates and dissents for all the above misdeeds involving national interests reflects the dubious and destructive intents of the Govt of the day.

CITU condemns such desperate auctioneering of country’s strategic industrial units in Defence production, Coal and Bauxite mining, aviation sector, electricity, Space and Atomic Energy and other national assets and resources in favour of private and foreign players which are severely detrimental to national interests. CITU calls upon the working people and all the trade unions irrespective of affiliations to protest against these retrograde measures and prepare for united resistance struggle at the earliest.

Issued by
( Tapan Sen )
General Secretary

Saturday, 16 May 2020 14:36

Homage to Comrade K Varadarajan

Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) pays respectful homage to Comrade K. Varadharajan who passed away at Karur, Tamil Nadu today at the age of 74.

Comrade K. Varadharajan was attracted to the Left ideology at a very young age. He was a trained civil engineer, but resigned from government’s job and started organising the peasantry in Trichy district of Tamil Nadu. He was elected as the District Secretary of the Tamilnadu Vivasayigal Sangham (Kisan Sabha) in 1974 and its State Secretary in 1986. He was the General Secretary of All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) from 1998 to 2013.  He played a crucial role in building the struggles for land rights, wages and against caste oppression of the peasants and agricultural workers. He contributed much to the worker-peasant alliance and joint struggles of CITU and AIKS. He was Vice President of AIKS till date.

He was a member of Polit Bureau of the CPI(M).

He also played a crucial role in organising the Dalits in Dalit Soshan Mukti Manch.

CITU conveys its heartfelt condolences to his bereaved family members and comrades.

Tapan Sen
General Secretary

The joint platform of Central Trade Unions in their meeting held on 14th May 2020 took note of the critical situation for the working people in the country during the Lock down period and decided to enhance united actions to meet the challenge.  

Taking shelter under the umbrella of COVID-19 Pandemic, every day the Govt. is taking one or other decisions to attack the working class and common people of the country who are already in deep distress and miseries in the midst of lockdown in the country. The Trade Unions independently and unitedly  have made several representations to the Prime Minister and Labour Minister in this regard as well as about the rampant violations of the government’s own directives/advisories in regard to payment of  full wages to workers during lock down and non-termination of employment but in vain. Similarly all the announcements made by the government in regard to ration distribution, even meager cash transfer to women and senior citizens, etc have failed at the ground level and did not reach the majority of the beneficiaries.

As the mass of the working people have been subjected to inhuman sufferings owing to loss of jobs, loss of wages, eviction from residences etc. reducing them to hungry non-entities in the process of 48 days lockdown, the Govt. of the day at the centre is aggressively moving to push the working people into virtual slavery. In desperation the migrant workers have been walking for several hundreds of miles on roads, on railway tracks, through fields and jungles to reach their homes with several precious lives having been lost on the way due to hunger, exhaustion and accidents. But even after three spells of lockdown, all announcements of Govt. including the latest one on 14th May 2020 did nothing for relieving the common people and workers from the miseries they are suffering except making tall claims and statements far away from truth, displaying cruel insensitivity to the miseries and distress of majority of the populace.  Now the Government at the centre, in a most dubious manner, taking advantage of prolonged lockdown period, has been targeting the rights of the workers and the trade unions towards abrogation of labour rights. It has taken the strategy of letting loose their pliant state governments to take such anti-worker and anti-people autocratic measures and many other state governments are being made to follow the same path to the detriment of the rights and livelihood of workers. The advisories to this effect are being sent to the state Governments from the Ministry of Labour and Employment Government of India..

UP government has brought a draconian ordinance titled “Uttar Pradesh Temporary Exemption for certain labour laws ordinance 2020” under the guise of facilitating economic activities. With one stroke 38 laws are made defunct for 1000 days (almost three years) and the remaining are only section 5 of Payment of Wages Act 1934, Construction Workers Act 1996, Compensation Act 1993 and Bonded Labour Act 1976 which remain functional. Those laws made defunct include Trade Union Act, Industrial Disputes Act, Act on Occupational Safety and Health, Contract Labour Act, Interstate Migrant Labour Act, Equal Remuneration Act, Maternity Benefit Act etc.

Madhya Pradesh Government has brought drastic changes in Factories Act, Contract Act and Industrial Dispute Act in a manner where the employers will be empowered to hire and fire the labour at their will; right to  dispute raising and grievance redressal will be put on ban ; the contractors will not be required to obtain license for supplying labour upto 49 persons and hence will function without any regulation and control; inspection will be virtually withdrawn and the entire enforcement machinery is put under freeze –making whatever law is in vogue and basic rights of the workers on wages, compensation, safety etc absolutely meaningless. Not only that, the employers were also exempted from payment of Rs 80/- per labourer to Madhya Pradesh Labour Welfare Board. The Shop and Establishment Act is amended to let the shops function from 6 am to 12 at night that means 18 hours at a go by MP government.

Gujarat government has also taken this illegal decision of increasing working  hours from 8 to 12 hrs and also desires to go the UP government way to suspend several laws for 1200 days. The Govts of Assam and Tripura and several others have been actively preparing to take the same route.

This retrograde anti-worker move came in the second stage after 8 state governments(Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Odisha, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Bihar and Punjab) have enhanced the daily working hours from eight hours to 12 hours through executive order in violation of the Factories Act, taking advantage of the lockdown situation.

These draconian measures are not only to facilitate more brutal and cruel exploitation of  workers without their rights for collective bargaining , dispute over proper wages, safety at work place and guarantee  of social security etc, but also to throw them in to conditions of slavery, in the interests of more profiteering despite continuing economic slowdown. Women and vulnerable sections will be more exploited in terms of forced labour.

 All this means that the workers are to be used as bonded labour without any rights for sheer exploitation in the interest of capital without any guarantee of wages, safety and healthcare, social security and above all  human dignity only to benefit those who maximize their profits on the blood and sweat of workers. This is against the basic tenets of human rights.

Indian working class is sought to be pushed back into British Era. The trade union movement cannot accept such nefarious design lying down and resolves to fight back unitedly with all their might with determination to defeat the anti worker anti people policies, of which these are a part. We have to mount resistance against such design of imposing slavery through countrywide struggle in the days to come.  

The CTUs note with satisfaction that already protests have been organized jointly by the workers and trade unions against such brutal and draconian anti-people and anti-worker measures in numerous states and industries, reflecting the fighting mood of the working people.

In this background, to begin with, the joint platform of Central Trade Unions  has decided to observe  nationwide protest day against the anti worker and anti people onslaughts of the government on 22nd May 2020. The national level leaders of the trade unions would organize day long hunger strike at Gandhi Samadhi, Rajghat,  Delhi.  Simultaneous  protest actions would be jointly organized in all the states. There will be lakhs of petitions from the unions and members to the Govt. then onwards.The demands include, immediate relief to stranded workers for safe reaching to their homes, food to be made available to all, universal coverage of Ration distribution, ensure wages to all of the lock down period, cash transfer to all unorganized labour force(registered or unregistered or self employed), withdraw DA freeze to central government employees & CPSEs and DR freeze to pensioners, stop surrendering of live sanctioned posts.

 In the meanwhile the state wise and sector wise issue based ongoing actions have to be intensified and  with the determination  and perspective of heightening the united struggle to halt the retrograde policies of trampling the hard won labour rights by the Govt through  nationwide strike action in the days to come.

The CTUs have also decided to send joint representation to ILO in regard to the violations being committed by Govt of India in regard to all the international commitments on labour standards and human rights.

The Joint Platform of Central Trade Unions and Federations calls upon to make the programme of Nationwide Protest day a massive success throughout the country while maintaining the norms of physical distancing and also upholding social solidarity.

           INTUC                         AITUC                       HMS                              CITU                             AIUTUC

     TUCC                          SEWA                           AICCTU                         LPF                            UTUC

        And the Federations and Associations of various sectors 

During its first term, the Modi led BJP government fast tracked the process of dismantling the labour laws that provided some protection to the workers, though to a very small section of them. It embarked upon codification of the 44 central labour laws into 4 codes. When this met with stiff resistance from all central trade unions with massive countrywide strikes, it was the BJP led state governments that carried the baton to amend labour laws in their respective states, Rajasthan taking the lead.  BJP government at the centre directed all state governments to follow suit.

After returning to power with increased mandate, labour law amendment was again taken up by the BJP government led by Modi as a priority. All the labour code bills were introduced in Parliament. But, despite its majority in Lok Sabha, BJP government could pass only the Code on Wages. Even as it wanted to push through the others - the Code on Occupational Health and Safety and Working Conditions, the Code on Industrial Relations and the Code on Social Security - it was compelled to refer them to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Labour. Before it could get them enacted, the Corona pandemic struck. 

The lockdown imposed to contain the pandemic brought the entire economy, which was already sliding, to a halt. It wreaked havoc with the lives and livelihoods of the workers, particularly the migrant workers and the unorganised sector workers. This was seen, by the distorted minds of the ruling classes and their pen pushers, as an opportunity to crush workers’ rights, shove them into slavery and protect their own profits. Again the lead was taken by the BJP ruled state governments, with the silent approval and blessing of Prime Minister Modi and his government. One by one BJP led state governments took up the process of nullifying all labour laws; state governments led by the Congress or other regional parties also followed.   

The BJP led Uttar Pradesh government has promulgated an ordinance nullifying almost all labour laws in the state for a period of three years. All establishments in the state are now exempted from all the 38 labour laws in vogue, except four. 

The chief minister of BJP ruled Madhya Pradesh announced that his government was going to follow his counterpart in Uttar Pradesh to annul labour laws for 1000 days and liberate the employers. New establishments in the state will be exempt from their obligation under the Factories Act, Madhya Pradesh Industrial Relations Act, Industrial Disputes Act, Contract Labour Act etc through appropriate amendments by executive order or ordinance. They have been assured that there will be no labour department’s intervention in the establishment during this period; no inspections; only self certification. They can hire and fire workers as per their choice. Nobody can prevent them if they want to fire existing workers and hire new workers at lower wages. Trade unions will not be allowed to raise workers’ issues or bargain with the management. Employers are even exempted from payment of Rs 80 per worker to the Madhya Pradesh Labour Welfare Board.

Not to be left behind, the BJP state government in Gujarat reportedly decided to initiate similar measures to give freedom to the employers from the imaginary clutches of labour laws for a period of 1200 days, i.e. more than three years. 

The state cabinet in Assam, again ruled by BJP, decided to implement Fixed Term Employment and exempt large number of employers from following labour laws like the Factories Act and the Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act. It has decided to increase the threshold number of workers for applicability of the Factories Act from 20 to 40 in the case of factories not using power and from 10 to 20 in the case of those using power. This will throw large number of workers in the manufacturing units out of legal protection under the Act related to occupational safety, health and welfare. 

As it is, most of the factories in our country do not have proper ventilation facilities, toilets, crèches, potable drinking water etc. Thousands of workers die every year of industrial accidents due to the neglect of the employers, the latest being the accident in LG Polymers in Visakhapatnam in which 12 people in the nearby village died and hundreds became seriously ill. Besides, when the economy is being opened up even as the fight against the corona virus needs to be continued, it is essential to ensure safe workplaces with facilities for washing hands, sanitisation and physical distancing etc. Instead of doing this, the BJP led governments are putting workers’ safety and lives to greater risk. 

Similarly, the threshold for the applicability of Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act, 1970 in Assam will be raised from the present 20 to 50. Contractors can limit the number of their workers to 49 and exploit them with unlimited freedom. 

The BJP government in Karnataka is also on the same path. It is reportedly considering relaxing labour laws related to minimum wages, working hours and also others. It has suddenly transferred the Principal Secretary of its Labour Department, who was reportedly considered a thorn in its attempts. 

In addition, several state governments – not only BJP led ones as in Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh and Assam but also Congress led governments in Punjab and Rajasthan as well as the BJD led Odisha government have increased daily working hours from 8 to 12 and from 48 to 72 in a week with 12 hour shifts. The BJP led governments in Karnataka and Tripura too are joining the bandwagon. Tripura government has also decided to increase the threshold number of workers in establishments to 300 for the employers to hire and fire as per their wishes.

On 9th May the Congress government in Punjab withdrew its own notification issued on 1st May increasing DA to industrial workers, which would have increased the minimum wages of workers by over Rs 350 from 1st March.  

It is highly significant that in this mad rush to amend labour laws to satisfy the employers, it was only the LDF government in Kerala, where the state labour minister has categorically asserted that the state was not going to amend the labour laws in favour of the employers. 

It is to be noted that all these are in total violation of the ILO conventions to which India is a signatory. The first convention that ILO, which India signed stipulates 8 hours of work in a day and 48 hours of work in a week.  India is also a signatory to the Tripartite Consultation International Labour Standards Convention, 1976, which requires it to consult stakeholders – employers and workers’ bodies – before taking any policy decision. But the state governments did not engage with trade unions, thus violating the Tripartite Consultation Convention C144. This is not the first time that the BJP government led by Modi is ignoring tripartism. CITU had to raise this with the ILO, during the first tenure of the Modi government.

That the government is acting as per the demands, rather dictates of the employers is very clear. Representatives of 12 employers’ associations and industries including Council of Indian Employers, FICCI, ASSOCHAM and PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry have demanded government of India to suspend labour laws for the next two to three years and to increase working hours to 12 per day. The Gujarat Chamber of Commerce and Industry demanded that trade unions be prohibited for at least one year. They complained that minimum wages were too high and bringing them down was nearly impossible; and they reiterated their long time demand for freedom to hire and fire. 

These demands and the response of the governments are nothing short of cruel. The corona pandemic has further increased the distress of the working class whose situation was already worsening due to the economic crisis. The workers are now facing unprecedented deprivations. ILO has estimated that half the workers globally would lose their jobs; in India around 40 crores workers are estimated to be pushed into poverty. The Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) has reported that 120 million Indian have lost their jobs. Unemployment rate has risen to around 27%. Crores of migrant and other workers who have lost their jobs suddenly find themselves homeless and hungry; lakhs of migrant workers have been walking hundreds of kilometres to their homes, hundreds succumbed to exhaustion and accidents on their way. 

It is in such conditions that the employers and the governments serving them are trying to push workers into conditions of slavery. The employers don’t want to pay them wages; but they also won’t allow them to go back to their native places either. They want the workers to be available, homeless, starving but ready to work with low wages and without any legal protection whenever the establishments are open. But, that is what capitalism is. In their rush for profits, capitalists trample underfoot workers, human beings, nature, anybody and anything; no feelings of justice, humanity or morality here.

This atrocious annulment of labour laws, meant to push workers into slavery is being done ostensibly in the name of attracting investment and supported by some in the name of weaning foreign firms from China. In the context of the corona pandemic, ‘China has become unpopular and many companies would exit from China. India should take this as a big opportunity, attract these firms and replace China as the ‘factory of the world’ – so goes the argument. 

Commending the UP, MP and Gujarat government’s initiatives as ‘one of the boldest and bravest initiatives since reforms in 1991’, Amitabh Kant, CEO of NITI Ayog recommended further reforms in other sectors as well. ‘It’s now or never; states are driving bold reforms; we will never get this opportunity; seize it’, he egged on the corporates.

However, this argument that foreign companies would relocate themselves from China to India is totally misplaced. Even Indian firms are not investing in the country, particularly during the last few years. The major reason is the deteriorating purchasing power of the people and the inability to sell the manufactured products.  Further suppressing demand through these measures will only worsen the disease.

In addition there is no empirical evidence that prohibiting labour laws or reducing wages would lead to economic growth. In Rajasthan, while the labour law amendments of the former BJP government were hailed by the corporates, what followed was fall in wages, increase in unemployment and decline in the state GDP. The Economic Survey of 2018-19 stressed that a high minimum wage does not impact employment generation. Besides, it is not only the trade unions, even eminent legal experts point out that ‘to say our labour laws are strictly implemented is a myth and thus to infer that their implementation is the primary cause for losses in productivity would be very erroneous’.

Within the serious constraints of the lockdown the working class in the country has made it clear they were not going to take these attacks lying down. In almost all the states wherever these changes were being carried out or being considered, in Madhya Pradesh, Assam, Punjab, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Telangana, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Bihar etc protests were held in front of the labour commissioners’ officers, work places, or houses etc, by CITU independently or jointly along with other trade unions. On 14th May the central trade unions in the joint trade union platform discussed on line about the future course of action to resist these measures. The secretariat meeting of CITU scheduled to be held on line on 15th May will finalise its campaign and struggle programmes on the basis of the call of its 16th conference ‘to defy and resist’ anti worker policies of the government. 

These attacks on the hard won rights of the working class, its display of authoritarianism are part of the attacks on the basic democratic and human rights of the toiling people by the desperate capital in crisis. These must be defeated and reversed through united struggles, not only of the working class but by the entire toiling masses.

Com. Hemalata

 The Centre of Indian Trade Unions expresses serious concern over reported ‘Styrene’ gas leakage at early morning little after 1 a.m. at the South Korean LG Polymer factory at K R Venkatapuram village at Visakhapatnam. The leakage has been so massive that it affected the inhabitants of the adjoining area beyond 3.5 kilometre radius of the Plastic Plant.

As per report received till 12 O’clock, 10 persons have died including one child and hundreds are seriously affected. Around 1000 are hospitalized in serious conditions. Evacuation of the local inhabitants from the area is reportedly going on.

The leakage took place while the 5000 tonne- capacity tanker was being filled with chemicals in preparation to start the factory operations shortly. The leakage took place owing to utter neglect and failure on the part of the company to ensure basic preventive safety as per Standard Operative Procedures (SOP) on chemical handling, with the gas spreading fast to the adjoining areas. The LG Polymer Plant, having its plant located in the midst of thickly populated areas cannot evade its responsibility to ensure that machineries and chemical/gas-storage facilities are properly maintained even during shutdown/lockdown. It was its responsibility to ensure that the required caution is exercised and safety norms are continuously followed to avoid any leakage/accident endangering human lives. As per report, both the two huge tankers with chemicals were left unattended during the lockdown by the Company management. The incident of gas leakage is nothing but a reflection of criminal negligence on the part of the company concerned only of minimising cost to maximise profit.  

This shows that the Govts, both at the Centre and State have not drawn any lessons from the Bhopal Gas tragedy decades back owing to such criminal default on the part of Union Carbide. The LG Polymers Company must not be allowed  to go scot-free. The Company should be held responsible and liable for this disastrous gas-leakage and must be prosecuted. The company also must be  made to pay not less than Rs 50 lakh as compensation to the families of those who lost their lives; adequate compensation must also be paid to all the other affected people; the Company also must be made to bear the entire expenditure for medical treatment of all those affected by the gas leakage.

CITU demands that the Govt must initiate an enquiry by an independent competent agency on the real cause of the accident/leakage to draw the lessons for further regulation/monitoring of the operations of the chemical plant besides fixing accountability in concrete terms. At the same time relocation of the factory beyond the populated areas should be seriously considered.

Issued by

( Tapan Sen )
General Secretary

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