By Arun Srivastava
It was more than a coincidence that on the day around 24 poor daily wage workers, on way to their native places, were killed in a road accident near Auraiya in Uttar Pradesh, the senior BJP leaders including Prime Minister Narendra Modi were celebrating the sixth year of the party coming to power and pursuing its ideological agenda.
While the celebration underlined their insensitivity towards the miseries and plights of the workers and a large number of workers dying on the streets during their flight back home, it also underscored that these workers do not matter in the political design of the BJP.
This occasion featured just a week after the May Day, the day which symbolises the unity of the workers and their political and economic empowerment was buried under the debris of the labour reforms carried out by Modi government and the saffron brigade on the plea of fighting coronavirus. This year’s May Day has been most agonising for workers. Modi and his cohorts used the pandemic to vilify them and serving the interest of the capitalists and middle class..
What has been most shocking is this is for the first time in the independent India any government has brazenly insulted and subjugated the workers to the worst kind of treatment. How Modi, responding to the desires of rich and middle class, has imposed the unplanned lockdown on India’s teeming millions, has been a known affair. Since he claims to be the son of a tea seller he ought to have perceived the plight a poor would face due to his arbitrary decision. The nature and quantum of miseries the poor workers has to suffer is now encoded in the pages of the history of modern India. The RSS and BJP or even the prime minister cannot tear off the pages and obliterate the historical facts.
If Modi had given even a day’s time and arranged for their transportation the labourers would not have faced this nature of starvation. The migration of the labourers has been worse than the migration at the time of partition in 1947. What is shameful is the cabinet colleagues of Modi have been trying to pass the blame for the migrant crisis onto the state governments.
Millions of workers were forced to go back to their native places trekking nearly 1500 to 2000 kms.
Workers have lost hard-won rights, despite labour being the biggest contributor to the Indian growth story. Modi and his capitalist cohorts like Ambanis and Adanis who were aspiring to control the world economy once India attained the status of global leader, treated these people as serfs and bonded labourers. Capitalist hatred towards them is so acute that they refused them the much needed help in this hour of crisis. They were forced to survive on streets and on alms they received from some good meaning people.
These BJP leaders are morally cowards and in fact slaves of the rich people and corporates and big industries is also clearly manifest in arbitrarily changing the labour laws taking advantage of the pandemic when the labourers could not hit the streets and raise their voice.
It is really a matter of shame that the left leaders who join the BJP’s chorus in condemning the Mamata government, preferred to maintain a passive silence when the BJP government snatched the rights of the labourers and completely changed the labour laws to suit the foreign industrial houses who are contemplating to come to India and set up their shops in India. The five states had legitimised an increase in working hours from eight to 12. May Day found the workers stripped not just of their jobs but also of some of the rights they had earned through decades of struggle.
Lockdown has converted a major section of lower middle class people into homeless, jobless and beggars. For exploiters, pandemic is the right time to erase human rights, annihilate the Constitution so that the poor and labourers are denied their fundamental rights. The recent developments send a loud message that Constitution is for the rich, well offs and middle class.
Indian labourers are not seeking any financial help from the government. What they have been demanding is the government should arrange for their safe return to their villages. But shamefully this has also is not been being provided to them. Modi and his government simply treats them as labour provider and not as the sons and daughters of India.
Some chief ministers during their video interaction with Modi on Monday had pointed out that they were not consulted before the lockdown was announced but now they were being made to bear the fallout of the unplanned move — particularly the crisis faced by the migrant workers — with very little help from the Centre. And at the same time Modi is not willing to provide some kind of financial support to the states to face the challenges.
Corona pandemic has badly exposed the myth so far being propounded and reiterated by the political institution of India of workers, the labourers, being the major stake holder in the development and prosperity of the country.
This was purely an illusion created by the capitalists, the rich and the corporate for exploiting them and using them for the promotion and strengthening of their vested interest. The element of economism practiced by the trade unions simply helped the class of the exploiters and capitalists. Vladimir Lenin, was involved in a political fight with a tendency in the movement that came to be called ‘economism’. Lenin dealt very harshly with the ‘economists’. They wished, he wrote, “to obscure the class character of the struggle of the working class, weaken this struggle by a meaningless ‘recognition of society’ and reduce revolutionary Marxism to a trivial reformist trend”.
Modi in one single stroke has horizontally split the Indian community and society into two; those who are above the line, the rulers, makers of the destiny of the country and those below the line, the oppressed and exploited, billions of the people who sale their labour and contribute in making the modern India. What is most worrisome is that these labourers in the present scenario do not have any right on their own labour power, which has been the only weapon in their hands to fight the capitalist exploitation. Now, the Modi government is moving ahead to amend the so-called stringent labour laws to suit the corporate and capitalist interests.
The utter contempt of the Modi government towards the labourers is also manifest in its sanctioning relief to the distressed labourers. It has been claiming to provide monetary help. But it is a false claim.
MGNREGA has helped build rural infrastructure through approximately 10 crore families. But because of the superimposed resource constraints, many could not access the entitled 100 days of work. Migrant workers coming back home will swell the already desperate demand for work.
RSS labour wing, Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh, is planning to hold protest against the changes introduced in labour laws by BJP-ruled MP and UP governments. The BMS said these changes to the labour laws are violation of the international labour law conventions and it will create a situation where there is no rule of law. The BMS president Saji Narayanan is right in saying; “We can’t allow jungle raj and put labourers in the hands of corporates. States are creating such a situation that there is no rule of law”.
The labourers who are the natural allies of the left forces have been feeling neglected. Modi government’s design to fool and exploit the labourers got exposed when it refused to give Supreme Court a break-up of the share of rail fares it has shared along with the state governments for the stranded migrants travelling home by train. Strange enough while submitting to the court the Solicitor general said that he had no instructions to reveal the details. It is intriguing why the Modi government did not permit him to place this fact before the court?
Ever since the lockdown was imposed on 25 March, an estimated 2 crores labourers have been trapped in the cities across India, with no work or income. If the reports trickling in are to be relied nearly 400 poor daily wage labourers have already died. Of these the number of workers who died on roads while going back to their native places is around 120.
One thing that got exposed in the most brazen manner is these ill-fated poor are not treated as the citizens of this country, forget being the children of India. The manner in which they were neglected and their miseries were overlooked by the Modi government simply strengthens the belief that they are only tool in the hands of the government to serve the interest of the rich and capitalists. In sharp contrast the priority before the Modi government has been to protect the class interest of the rich and the middle class people. (IPA Service)