People's Democracy(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
December 31, 2006
Construction Workers Hold First Conference
THE first conference of the All Manipur Construction Workers Union was held on November 11 and 12 at Changangei in Imphal, adjacent to the Imphal Airport. The conference was attended by 58 delegates, including 15 women, representing a membership of more than 400 in different parts of the state. After Debanjan Chakrabarty, general secretary of the Construction Workers’ Federation of India, hoisted the red flag and floral tributes were paid at the martyrs column by the delegates, CPI(M) state secretary Dr Yumnam Mahendra, among others, attended the open rally at the square of the conference venue, named after Comrade Sougrakpam Nodia. There was also a colourful cultural evening, with performances by the Song and Drama Division.
The rally was addressed by Debanjan Chakrabarty. He pointed out that the conditions under which construction workers were put to work in the smaller concerns were oppressive and exploitative in the extreme. He demanded that the Manipur government enact a law in line with the Building and Other Construction Workers (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1996, of the government of India for the welfare of construction workers in Manipur. He further said this was a good beginning for the future of construction workers in Manipur that they were getting organised in under the banner of All Manipur Construction Workers Union, which will link them with the national and international working class movement through the CWFI and Centre of Indian Trade Unions. Others who addressed the open session included Chinglen Maisnam, general secretary of the Manipur University Teachers Association. He pointed out that the construction industry is a big industry in Manipur as its contribution to the state’s income in 1993-94 was Rs 87.41 crore, which went up to Rs 360.00 crore in 2003-04.
The delegates session, held in Comrade Sapam Ibohal Hall, started with the election of a three-member presidium comprising L Rajmani, S Behari Singh and S Jugol, of a steering committee having of Kshetrimayum Santa, Sarat Salam and R K Tribhuvan, a three-member credentials committee with H Ibetombi Devi, Y Benki and Dr H Harneth and a two-member minutes committee of with H Umesh and Y Jadumani. Then Sarat Salam moved a condolence resolution and silence was observed for two minutes.
In his inaugural address, Debanjan Chakrabarty said a state level Construction Workers Welfare Board, comprising representatives of the trade unions, the state government and the management must be set up in Manipur so that construction workers are able to register their names with the board as beneficiaries. He also said that in order to really have the benefits emanating from the state welfare board, a strong and organised movement on behalf of the construction workers were essential. He added that if 10,000 construction workers are organised and hold a rally demanding the setting up of a Construction Workers Welfare Board in Manipur, the government would have no alternative but to set it up. He also informed that a memorandum in regard to the enactment of a law for construction workers had also been submitted to the chief minister O Ibobi Singh and asked the delegates to fight to get it materialised. He further said he had come to know that the state government had constituted an experts committee and urged the state government to frame state rules under the central act and to constitute a state welfare board and state advisory committee for the welfare of construction workers in the state. He expressed the hope that the abovementioned points were implemented in Manipur and more than 15,000 construction workers and their family members in the state would be highly benefited.
After the inaugural address, Kshetrimayum Santa placed the draft report and 6 delegates participated in the discussion on it. In his report, Santa mentioned that the Congress(I) led alliance government of Manipur could not implement the decision of the state wage board to increase the minimum wages of the skilled, semi-skilled and unskilled workers in the state. It also mentioned that the demand for the setting up of a construction workers welfare board in Manipur is the first and foremost demand of the union. In his report he stressed the need to make a grand success of the national general strike on December 14, called for by the Sponsoring Committee of Trade Unions.
After the report was adopted by the conference, Sarat Salam read out the draft constitution of the union, line by line, and it was unanimously adopted with no amendment moved. The conference also adopted resolutions on the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (Assam & Manipur) 1958, on Sharmila’s Hunger Strike demanding withdrawal of the act, on registration and affiliation of the union to the CWFI, on the right to strike, on the need of a construction workers welfare board, an expert committee and an state advisory committee in Manipur, on a state law for the construction workers, on privatisation of the PSUs, on minimum wages, on equal wages for equal works, against atrocities of women workers in workplaces, and a bill on reservation of seats for women in the parliament and state legislatures.
The conference was greeted by fraternal delegates including L Kunjo (president, AIKS affiliated Manipur Loumi Marup), S Roma Devi (vice president, state DYFI), A Binodini Devi (president, All Manipur Democratic Women’s Association, affiliated to the AIDWA) and Pari Luwang (state secretary, SFI).
The conference elected a 21-member working committee of the All Manipur Construction Workers’ Union with a 7-member secretariat. The secretariat members are Saikhom Jugol (president), L Rajmani and S Behari (vice president), Kshetrimayum Santa (general secretary), Sarat Salam (secretary) and R K Tribhuvan (treasurer), with one seat vacant.