Wednesday, February 13, 2013
Nation gets ready for the historic General Strike - A.K. Padmanabhan
Indian working class is all set for the historic 48 hours General Strike on 20th and 21st February 2013. The call by the Eleven Central T.Us and various National Federations have found more support from various other regional level organizations and also a number of independent plant level trade unions and other organizations.
The reports from all over the country show that this phase of the United Trade Union movement will be the largest ever working class action in the country which will be protesting against the antiworker – antipeople policies of the government and also putting forward alternative policy line.
The struggle against the neo-liberal policies by the trade unions had begun in 1991 itself, the year in which these policy declarations were made by the Central Govt. by led by P.V. Narasimha Rao.
In fact Trade Unions had begun to raise policy alternatives by early 1980s, when the IMF dictated policies were thrust upon the people by the then Govt. led by Indira Gandhi. The country wide General Strike and Hartal on 19th January 1982 was a great success, when the demands of Workers, Peasants, Agricultural Workers and Unemployed Youth were raised by the National Campaign Committee of Trade Unions.
It was the Second phase of United Trade Union movement that began in 1991. The struggles from 1991 were at the call of joint platforms like Sponsoring Committee of Indian Trade Unions and National Platform of Mass Organizations. There were twelve countrywide one day General Strikes till 2008, demanding justice to the workers and toiling masses.
The year 2009 saw a new upsurge for more united struggles and with the National Convention in September 2009, the third phase of struggles against the Neo-liberal policies took shape.
The General Strike on 7th September 2010 and the massive campaigns and court arrest programmes preceding the strike saw mobilization of more and more workers. The massive, unprecedented march to Parliament on 23rd February 2011 and other campaigns resulted in further strengthening the joint platform with the participation of all the Eleven Central Trade Unions and also almost all the National Federations. This resulted in another General Strike on 28th February 2012, in which more than 10 crores of workers had participated involving all sectors. Many sections of workers, who had never participated in any such struggle came forward to participate this massive action of working people.
Now, again, within a year of that strike, the workers are well prepared for a 48 hour general strike.
The charter of demands which includes the demands of the vast majority of Indian people like the price control of essential commodities, ensuring universal Public Distribution System to ensure food security also have immediate demands of minimum wages of at least Rs.10,000 per month, equal wage for equal work and end to the highly exploitative contract systems. More than that, workers are demanding the right to form a union and to ensure collective bargaining rights.
After the Convention in September 2012, where the call for the 48 strike was given, hectic preparations had begun.
All the states have organized joint state level Conventions and in many states, district and area level conventions were also organized. These conventions at state level were attended by senior leaders of Central unions, calling upon the cadres to reach out to the workers at the grass root level.
This time, sectoral level united conventions and campaign programmes have reached a new high. The National Convention of Central Public Sector Unions on 15the December in Chennai, had participants from all the central undertakings belonging to BMS, INTUC, CITU, AITUC, HMS and LPF along with independent unions and their Joint Action Committees from Bangalore and Hyderabad.
Joint Conventions were then held at Sectoral level – Steel, Coal, Petroleum, NTPC, Power Grid and also State Electricity Boards, Public and Private Transports. In all these conventions and joint meetings we could see unprecedented unity and also energetic participation of many new organizations even from the North-Eastern States. In the central PSUs, all the participative unions are conducting joint campaigns and have served strike notices jointly.
In the Banking Sector, which had seen a countrywide strike on 20th December against the Banking Law Amendment Bill, all in Unity for the 48 hours strike is ensured by the call given by United Forum of Bank Unions (UFBU) which has all unions of employees and officers as its constituents.
Telecom Sector also will see a complete strike with 13 unions of workers coming together to participate in the strike.
Insurance Sector, will, as usual, have full participation in the strike.
All the major Ports in the county will come to a grinding halt on these two days, with all the National Federations giving a joint call. Various organizations of State and Central Govt. Employees and also Teachers have come forward to participate in the struggle and has taken lead in the campaign in many states.
In the Defence Sector, Civilian employees in all production centres and offices will join the 2 day strike. All the three federations, AIDEF, BPMS and INDWF have jointly decided to go on strike.
Millions of scheme workers like Anganwadi, Asha, Mid Day Meal Workers will participate in the strike. In Anganwadi, National level organizations affiliated to CITU, AITUC, INTUC, HMS and BMS has served the strike notice on Central Government jointly.
In all the major industrial centres in the country, Private Sector industries will see complete participation in strike. Even in centres like Gurgaon, Manesar, Ghaziabad and also in Sriperumpudur in Tamilnadu, Bangalore and surrounding areas in Karnataka and in Greater Hyderabad area, full scale preparations have been done.
Unorganized Sector Workers like Construction, Beedi, Handloom-Powerloom, Head load workers in the forefront of campaigns.
In addition to the conventions, largely attended public meetings are being held in various states in which top level leaders are addressing the workers.
Various regional trade unions organizations in Maharashtra, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Kerala and Tamilnadu and Traders Organizations in different parts of the country have decided to support the struggle and make the general strike a success.
The positive impact of the campaign and the increased support was reflected in the country wide Rasta-Roko and Court Arrest programmes of 18th/19th December 2012 and the March to Parliament on 20th December, with massive participation of men and women from nearby states.
Along with the active participation in the joint activities and campaigns, CITU has conducted campaigns and preparations independently in all states and sectors.
A booklet published by the Central Secretariat of CITU in English and Hindi has been reprinted and also translated in different languages by the State Committees. Andhra Pradesh State Committee of CITU sold more than 4.5 lakhs of the booklet reaching a new height in the educative campaign. Many other State Committees and also National Federations affiliated to CITU has brought out lakhs of copies of booklet and also millions of handbills and posters.
District and State Conferences of CITU, now being held all over the country, in preparation for the 14th All India Conference in April, saw separate discussions and decisions on making the 48 hour strike a great success.
The last lap of the campaign is going ahead, reaching out to every section of workers in all the sectors.
In another major development this time, Peasants and Agriculture workers organizations like All India Kisan Sabha and All India Agricultural Workers Union have also called for country wide struggles on 20th and 21st February on their demands and in solidarity with the T.U. struggle.
Those 2 days of General Strike will witness massive rallies, demonstrations, Dharnas, Rasta Rokos and Rail Rokos by striking workers, Peasants and Agricultural Workers.
In sum, the 48 hours general strike, an unprecedented action of Indian working class at the National level will also be the largest strike action at the International level also.
Even after 14 one day strikes and innumerable sectoral strikes and struggles, the Government at the centre, has not found it necessary to talk to the unions or listen to their demands but wants to speed up the reforms with a declaration “to fight even if they go down”. In these circumstances, this General Strike, will be a patriotic action to save the country from the anti-people polices and move ahead towards an alternative set of polices. It will also be a powerful warning to the ruling classes to desist from anti people policies.
With the deepening crisis of capitalism and also the economic situation in the country causing concern to everybody, the struggle for alternative polices are crucial. The United struggle of the working class will surely rouse all other deprived sections to come out and join the struggles in the future.