Country taken over by the rich and powerful, says Gurudas Dasgupta

In a growing indication of Central trade unions setting aside differences to present a united front, a national convention of workers held on Tuesday here announced a two-day countrywide general strike on February 20 and 21 next year.

National-level leaders of the five prominent trade unions said that unless workers and unions stood united, they would lose the struggle against violation of labour laws and contractisation of labour, besides being unable to secure proper minimum wages and social security for the unorganised sector.

The Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS), the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), the Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC), the All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC) and the Hind Mazdoor Sabha (HMS) said they would hold joint conventions at the State, district and sector levels over the next three months to prepare grassroots members for the strike.

The workers plan to march to Parliament on December 20, and to stage satyagrahas and court arrest on December 18 and 19 in all States.

AITUC general secretary and Lok Sabha MP Gurudas Dasgupta, who initiated the convention, said the country was facing a bad situation as the recession was causing severe job losses and massive corruption was emptying the government treasury.

“This is not the country envisaged by Bhagat Singh, Jawaharlal Nehru or Sardar Patel. This is a country that has been taken over by the rich and powerful. People are yet to get independence from poverty, unemployment, corruption and injustice.”

Mr. Dasgupta warned the workers that the movement would enter a “difficult phase” with the planned protests but it would help to jolt the government.

“Never before have all the trade unions come together like this. This unity will be our weapon. Having a two-day strike is a tough task which we have not done before. Our preparations will have to be robust. We are aware that the common man will face difficulties. But the condition of workers is very grave and desperate. Newspapers will write against us. The court might act against us. The government and employers will unite against us.”

‘Loot in development’s name’

CITU general secretary and Rajya Sabha member Tapan Sen pointed to the increasing contractisation of labour and decrease in the number of permanent workers. “In the name of development, what is being undertaken is the loot of the nation’s resources,” Mr. Sen said, talking about the spate of corruption scandals in recent times.

BMS general secretary B.N. Rai proposed the resolution, calling for unity among the Central trade unions in following the agitational measures chalked out. “If we fight separately, we will be finished. The capitalist class is united against us and they have the government’s support. To advance the struggle, we will have to unite. There is no other option,” Mr. Rai said.

INTUC president G. Sanjeeva Reddy noted that fledgling trade unions were facing difficulty in getting themselves registered and workers protesting against injustice were increasingly receiving threats. “The wages of workers are not increasing despite price rise. Workers are made to work longer hours and they do not get benefit of medical or welfare schemes,” said Mr. Reddy.

The Self-Employed Women’s Association union leader Manali Shah made a fervent pitch for providing social security benefits for women and unorganised-sector workers. However, H.S. Sidhu of the HMS observed that an indefinite strike was needed to produce results.

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