People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 46

November 18, 2012




Construction Workers Observe Protest Day


Ramesh Chand


ON November 6, 2012, workers belonging to the Jammu & Kashmir state committee of the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) observed Protest Day at the Mini Stadium in Udhampur. The day was observed at the call of the Construction Workers Federation Of India (CWFI), affiliated to the CITU, to demand proper implementation of labour laws, implementation of central act for welfare of construction workers in all the states, Rs 10,000 as minimum wage for all unskilled workers, curb on the price rise in case of essential commodities and building materials, ensured safety at worksites, housing for all, unemployment allowance to youth, prohibition of child labour etc. 


The protest in Udhampur was part of a Protest Day observed by construction workers all over the country on November 6.


A large number of construction workers from different districts, including those working in two prestigious construction projects of Jammu & Kashmir, viz four lane roads and railways line,   participated in this protest. Holding red flags and placards in their hands, workers raised slogans against the policies of the state and central governments.


Speaking on the occasion, M Y Tarigami, state CITU president, said that workers had for long been demanding strict enforcement of labour laws and stringent punitive measures for their violations. He added that violation of labour laws by employers, in connivance with the law enforcement machinery, has been a major instrument for profit maximisation, whereby workers alone are targeted for cost minimisation in the production of goods or services. In fact, 90 per cent of disputes and conflicts going on in different workplaces in the country related to non-implementation of labour laws. There is exploitation and loot of workers through non-implementation of the basic labour laws pertaining to minimum wages, working hours, safety in workplaces, social security benefits etc. Tarigami stressed that the average level of wages is going down, owing to a sharp decline in the size of the permanent workers and widespread contractisation of work. This can in no way be tolerated by the working class. He explained the socio-economic significance of demands like Rs 10,000 as the minimum wages for workers, reduction in the prices of essential commodities and building materials, housing for all workers, etc for the whole of state’s and India’s economy.


While addressing the gathering, senior CITU leader Sham Prasad Kesar said the central welfare acts for construction workers should be implemented in all the states. He welcomed the establishment of a Welfare Board for Construction Workers by the J&K government but urged the concerned departments for speedy registration of construction workers. He also demanded that benefits should be extended to registered workers without any further delay. Further, all the workers in the construction projects related to four-lane road and railway line must be registered and benefits extended to them immediately. He said India ranks second in the number of child labourers, after Africa, despite all our tall talk about the so called growth and progress. In fact, one out of every seven child workers in the world is an Indian. This sounds quite shameful and we have to eliminate this scourge altogether.


State CITU general secretary Om Parkash narrated why the construction workers all over the country were holding strikes and demonstrations on the day, in support of their demands. He pointed out how gross violation of labour laws was taking place in the state, including in the four lane and railway construction projects. These workers are not getting even minimum wages, overtime, weekly paid rest, retrenchment benefits, equal pay for equal work, housing facilities, medical facilities, transport facilities etc. When they organise a protest against their exploitation, the government moves into action in support of the employers and those taking part in trade union activities are thrown out of employment on some false charges. This is nothing but an attack on the right to freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining, which are essential components of workers’ rights in any civilized society.


Others who spoke on the occasion were Arshad Malik and Abdul Rashid (president and general secretary respectively of the Construction of Tunnel & Four Lane Workers Union) and Sunita Bhagat, general secretary of the Asha Workers Union of Jammu & Kashmir.