Preparations are afoot on the August 24 decision made in the first ever historic joint national convention of workers and farmers at Talkatora Stadium New Delhi for launching decisive protest actions across the country during forthcoming December-January, with the slogan “Oust Modi, Oust BJP”.
Barring the RSS-BJP supported Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS) and Bharatiya Kisan Sangh (BKS) all the Central Trade Unions, Farmers unions, and independent federations and associations including in banks, insurance, public transport, electricity, and government sector etc will be participating. Obviously, it would put PM Narendra Modi government on the defensive. The opposition INDIA alliance may find it conducive for making their election campaign even more aggressive against PM Narendra Modi.
PM Modi will be looking towards their own favourite BMS and BKS to counter the workers and farmers agitation, but these organisations with lesser strength than the opposing farmers and workers unions in the country, could not be able to rescue him, since they themselves have reservations on his policies regarding farmers and workers.
BMS has been opposing several of the provisions of the four controversial labour codes that PM Modi has been trying to implement in the country branding them to be the biggest labour reform in the country since independence. He says, these are much desired, long overdue, and would benefit workers and bring ‘ease of doing business’. BMS has almost lost its moral strength to support the code whole heartedly. BKS had also rallied against PM Modi’s policies for farmers in December last year, and has been demanding better policies on several issues. It means, dissatisfaction has been brewing among the member of BMS and BKS too. Therefore, they could not stand firm against the other workers and farmers unions’ stir, but will have hidden support so that their rights and benefits remain protected by the policy onslaughts in PM Modi’s regime.
Central Trade Unions have labeled the codes anti-worker and pro-corporate and have been demanding withdrawal of the codes. The went even for all India strike action against the codes and several other anti-worker policies. Codes are presently put on hold, and if PM Modi returns to power, these would be implemented despite resistance from trade unions.
Workers and farmers would observe October 3 as Black Day. They have planned a Day and Night Mahapadav (sit-in protest) Struggle in front of Raj Bhawans across the States and the UTs from November 26 to 28, before they launch their decisive protest action in December 2023. They are planning to stick to these schedules before 2024 election which are to be completed by May 2024. The protests dates may change if PM Modi decides to pre-pone the election, as it is widely talked about.
The joint platform of CTUs and Banks and Insurance employees’ unions are also against PM Modi’s moves for privatization of Public Sector in a big way, since they fear repressions of workers on the one hand and transfer of public sector assets to a handful of government’s favourite private corporate companies.
Both organized and unorganized sector workers are in very bad shape. Working class is faced with unprecedented level of unemployment and job losses. There are little jobs in the market while the country has large number of workers. Real wages are reducing with rise in prices and inflation triggering cost of living crisis. On the other hand, permanent jobs are systematically and legally made to decline and disappear through provisions of outsourcing, contract works, fixed term employment, gig works etc. For majority of workers, there are no social security coverage at all, and they are left destitute.
India is well off the track to achieve SDG 8, and hence inclusive and sustainable economic growth, employment, and decent work for all remains a dream. There are only lip services by PM Modi who has been organizing “Employment Fairs” as a coverup to the frightening ground realities. Highest growing economic tag is deceptive for the majority of the people since their income are dwindling as against the growing profits of the big Corporates. Government’s policies are breeding inequality, that has acquired alarming proportion. Only 20 corporates are bagging 60 per cent of the entire income and 70 per cent of the entire profit of all the people in the country. For the majority of people, about 97 crore, even healthy food has become unaffordable according to the latest World Bank Atlas. Inequality are reaching unprecedented levels.
Workers are in peril, both the urban and the rural. There is no central employment guarantee scheme for the urban workers. There is a rural employment guarantee programme MGNREGA, but it remains tough for illiterate workers to get job under this scheme, which has allegedly Centre government’s creation to discourage rural workers asking for jobs. It is being done to curtail central fund, which has been declining over the years, since the programme is demand driven. Moreover, payments are delayed for months, which reveals insensitiveness of the government who does not have time to think how can a poor worker survive without timely payment of wages, when they need it on daily basis?
Several issues are interlinked – workers are suffering from food insecurity leading to health crises at a time when healthcare costs have already become unaffordable for them, since they don’t have enough earning on account of no job. They can’t even dream proper education for their children.
Workers, and working class, have lost hopes in finding jobs, not to talk about decent jobs, if the present policies are continued to be implemented by PM Narendra Modi, which is reflected in the employment and unemployment data of both the government and private institutions. Many of the unemployed have even left searching for jobs.
Is INDIA alliance ready to listen to their predicaments? They have been on agitation path against the PM Modi government and are in desperate need of support from all opposition political parties so that they can at least survive and not fall into the hands of exploiters as modern-day economic slaves. They have become restive for this reason. Several of the opposition leaders have expressed solidarity with the workers agitation, but it would not be enough for their protection.
INDIA alliance is yet to devise and declare a comprehensive policy covering all dimensions of the working class – decent jobs, decent wages, complete social security coverage, access to food and healthcare, access to education for their children, protection from working hazards, all sorts of exploitation at work, and a guarantee that they can overcome poverty by their hard work which the current policies of the government have made impossible for majority of workers. SDG goals provides the clue about the predicaments of the working class, and INDIA alliance must include them to alleviate their miseries. (IPA Service)