The All India General Strike called jointly by 10 Central Trade Unions and Organizations (CTUOs), namely INTUC, AITUC, HMS, CITU, AIUTUC, TUCC, SEWA, AICCTU, UTUC, LPF and others came out as a remarkably successful movement on the part of the vast masses of the workers and employees of the country that defied all dubious ploys to mislead, confuse and divide the working people hatched and executed by the BJP-led Union government and different state governments of different shades of banners. The working people irrespective of affiliations responded to the call of the central trade union and organizations and leaders and stood largely united against the grossly anti-worker policies of the Union and state governments to make the General Strike a success.
The situation in which the Strike was called did not arise in a day. Since the advent of the days of globalization-liberalization- privatiza-tion following the dictates and prescriptions of the imperialists headed by the US imperialists, the working people all over the world have been facing increasingly severe onslaughts. In India this was initiated under the Congress rule. Despite all rhetoric against the previous Congress rule, the present BJP government simply continues the same policies, sharpening the attacks and aggravating the plight of the working community, at the same time bluntly ignoring any call for dialogues to settle the issues.
In consequence, the objective reality reveals that the unemployment has alarmingly surpassed all past records, while price rise of even bare essential commodities is soaring unabated. The BJP government expresses wishes to create employability and job opportunities and to contain price –rise , but acts on the contrary. While intense market crisis comes down heavily upon the existing capitalist system, the government enthusiastically runs after satisfying the unbridled lust of the profit-hunting sharks, the corporate and the monopolists. Thus all their reforms shifts the burden on the common working people. These include job loss, wage cut and freeze, retrenchment under the garb of sugar-coated phrase of downsizing or otherwise, writing off the provision of seeking permission from the government for closure and lay-off in concerns with 299 workers from the earlier limit of concerns with 100 workers, granting unbridled power for retrenching workers and employees to virtually 90% industry-owners of the country and so on. This is the real face of achche din or good days dished out by the BJP government to the working people of the country. In fact it is tantamount to compelling workers sign over their own death warrants being issued by the Union government. Naturally such fast deteriorating condition of life of the working people called for continuing and developing their struggle until demands are achieved.
The Strike was called on 12 vital demands of life and livelihood of the workers and employees. It needs mention that the demands are nothing new and were raised in a similar strike last year with assertion that if these demands were not met in a year’s time, the workers and employees will be compelled to go for another strike. As it was made clear by Comrade Krishna Chakraborty, the President, AIUTUC in his reply on 28 August to an undated letter from the Union Minister of Labour and Employment sent to the central trade union leaders just on the eve of the strike that the Group of Ministers constituted by the Union government before the Strike of 2015 could not conclude its discussion with the central trade union leaders on the 12 point charter of demands. It even did not find time during the last one year to resume the discussion and the Union Minister of Labour and Employment himself could not make it convenient to meet the central trade union leaders for a comprehensive exchange and settlement of pending issues, before the notice of the Strike was served this year. On the contrary, in the name of reform of the Labour Laws dangerous anti-worker amendments are being effected one after another. Without introducing National Minimum Wage as committed and without paying any heed to the demand raised in this regard, just on the eve of the proposed Strike day this year, the BJP government dished out a pittance for the unorganized workers with a view to creating confusion and division among the workers. Contractorisation and contractualisation in government services and public sector units are being stepped up along with violation of the Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act 1970 and other Laws with impunity not only by the private owners but even the governments. Anganwadi-ASHA- Mid-day meal workers are still termed volunteers instead of giving them the status of regular government employees.
The charter of demands thus placed, included repealing all anti-worker amendments of Labour Laws, job to all unemployed, universal social security, minimum wage to be fixed at Rs. 18000 per month, effective steps towards containing price rise, stopping contractual system and appointment of all contract labours in permanent posts on the basis of the principle of same work same pay as those of permanent workers, pension to everybody along with extension of social security to unorganized sector workers, registration of trade union within 45 days of application and others. Besides, the Strike vent out strong resentment at the disinvestment policy of the government whereby public sector institutions are being handed over liberally to the private owners and at the decision of allowing of FDI in defence and security sectors, railways, retail trade and media etc.
While the Strike was directed against the BJP-led Union government , responsible for giving birth to the present attack on the working people, state governments of different political hues and slogans did not fall far behind. In fact in certain states like West Bengal, the state government virtually declared war against the Strike and the strikers. The Chief Minister herself gave vent to out all-out opposition, ordered punitive measures including wage or salary cut for the strikers, arranged for privileges including sumptuous meals for the strike-breakers, unleashing police and storm-trooper atrocities on the strikers on the day of strike: all these were tried out. One may be surprised to note that the same TMC under their Supremo Mamata Banerjee, now the Chief Minister, rose to the power riding on the surge of movements that rightly included bandhs, strikes and hunger strikes and dharnas and all sorts, against fascistic attacks by the then CPI(M)-led government. But just as the CPI(M) led government in their zeal to enjoy power and pelf serving most obediently their masters, the monopolists and the corporate of the land and abroad, had come out violently against all forms of movement, in the same manner the present TMC government is vigorously coming out as a force against people’s movement obviously to earn confidence and support of the master, the monopolists, along with maintaining a stand that falls in line with the BJP government of the Centre on the same counts. In other states too repressive measures were brought down upon the strike-organizers and strikers. In Tamilnadu, run by the AIADMK government the AIUTUC state president Comrade Anavarathan and in the BJP-run state of Assam AIUTUC state secretary Comrade Azhar Hossain were arrested for organizing the strike.
Efforts towards building up powerful and effective united movement of the workers and employees was, however, disturbed by the role of some central trade unions. The decision and the date for the General Strike was made at a national level convention in Delhi on 30 March 2016. Obviously it implied that the same line of approach would follow in the states too, though particular attacks on workers in some state or other, might always be incorporated at the state level. Unfortunately in West Bengal, without going for a joint effort, the CITU extended a proposal and that too at the eleventh hour without leaving any scope for any effective discussion, in which they included a major political issue of fight for restoration of democracy by the CPI(M)- Congress alliance in the last Assembly election. Not all the CTUs participating in the proposed General Strike in West Bengal were keen to include this political agenda of the CPI(M) in the charter of demands that pertained exclusively to the trade union rights and demands of the working people irrespective of their affiliation. The CITU move in West Bengal thus definitely hampered united movement in that state of West Bengal and forced the AIUTUC and some other CTUs to go for the programmes separately.
In sum and substance, absolute majority of the working people participated in the Strike in almost all the states of the country. In big Public Sector strategic units where production is done today majorily by contract workers, all those workers took part as also did the permanent workers there. The Strike thus assumed a historic character giving out a message to the international fraternity about the united struggle participated by more than 200 million Indian workers.
Such being the situation it remains with the heroic workers to realize that the present wretched condition of their life and livelihood can be thwarted not just with the help of a day’s strike, however successful that may be. This is definitely a step ahead, the first step which must be followed by further advancement of struggle into a sustained united and organized struggle. Side by side, it should also be taken into account that the attack is not confined to the economic field only. It is all pervading, and includes attacks in political-social-cultural fields too. Thus the struggle must be based on higher ideological-cultural edifice to generate proper political-ideological consciousness as well as cultural-moral strength to take up the required struggle to make it conducive to the revolutionary struggle to overthrow the prevailing capitalist system that is causing the plights and sufferings of the workers and employees. And for that it is necessary to preserve the unity of the workers and employees rising above petty sectarian political interests and pragmatic consideration. The countrywide General Strike against the BJP led Union government has unquestionably brought these facts before the workers-employees of the country irrespective of their current affiliation.
Workers and employees observe All India General Strike across over the country
Defying all attacks and irrespective of their affiliation, the working people of India made the All India General Strike remarkably successful.
Despite the TMC-run state government virtually declaring war against the General Strike of 2 September in particular and movement in general, people of West Bengal joined their brethren all over the country to make the Strike successful. Workers of tea, jute, engineering- chemical- cement- foundry- rubber- biscuit-battery- food processing and such other industries of all scales joined the Strike. Among other states, there were big rallies in support of the Strike on the day itself, at Patna as well as in other districts in Bihar like Muzaffarpur, Munghyr, Baishali and Aurangabad etc. At the Thermal Power plant under construction in the Navinagar Bloc of Aurangabad district the Strike was totally successful with workers joining it en masse. In Andhra Pradesh- Telangana state public vehicles were off from the road. Educational institutions were closed. JNT University postponed its examinations. Banks and insurance offices were also shut down. Workers of the most of the PSUs including Singareni Coal Mines, Visakha Steel Plant, Kakinada Port went on strike. Works stopped also in defence laboratories. In Hyderabad, Anantapur, Hindupur, Kurnool, Vizag, Viziawada, Tirupati and other places the Strike was observed with marked participation of workers. In Odisha, road transport and communication system was paralysed, shops and commercial establishments, government offices, banks, insurance sector offices were totally closed, train communication was partially affected, small scale industries were fully affected, the entire strength of contractual workers of NTPC, Kaniha participated in the general strike, but organized sectors like Nalco, RSP, as also private-owned industries were partially affected in the state of Odisha. Apart from the joint programmes, workers and employees led by the AIUTUC leaders and organizers took particular initiative at Bhubaneswar, Cuttack, Rourkela as also in different places in Angul , Jagatsinghpur, Khurda, Jajpur, Koraput, Mayurbhanj, Kendrapada, Bhadrak and Balasore districts in organizing rail roko, road blocades, processions and squatting before important administrative centres and government or private offices, including the RBI at Bhubaneswar. In the state of Chhattisgarh, strike was observed in industrial areas of Bhilai, Durg, Raipur, Rajnandgaon, Dhamtari and elsewhere. Particularly significant was participation in the Strike of both permanent and contractual workers and employees in the water Treatment Plants of the municipalities of different towns. Photos of the strike day from some other states are included separately. ( Nagpur in Maharshtra, Gwalior in MP, Agartala in Tripura, Ahmedabad in Gujarat, Bhubaneswar in Odisha)