People's Democracy

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


No. 48

December 02, 2012



Unprecedented Mahapadav of Scheme Workers

Wake Up Call for the UPA Govt


K Hemalata



PARLIAMENT sessions are occasions when different sections of people from different places come to Delhi to vent their grievances in the hope that the powers that be will pay some attention. Jantar Mantar near parliament is the place where some or other protest, dharna or demonstration is held every day during that period.


But the ‘mahapadav’ of scheme workers that was held near parliament was something that Jantar Mantar has not witnessed during at least the last two decades. More than 50,000 ‘scheme workers’, most of them women from all over the country thronged the place to raise their voice against the gross injustice meted out to them. They were participating in the massive ‘mahapadav’ organised by the Centre of Indian Trade Unions to highlight their common demands – the demand to be recognised as workers, for minimum wages and social security benefits and regularisation. Braving the cold Delhi winter they sat and slept on the road through the day and night. The ‘mahapadav’ which started at 11.00 am on November 26 continued till 4.00 pm on November 27.


Workers employed in more than 12 different schemes of government of India including anganwadi workers and helpers employed in the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS), ASHAs, the link health assistants, second ANMs employed in the National Rural Health Mission, the mid day meal workers, teachers and non teaching staff in the National Child Labour Project, the Krishak Sathis employed under the Agricultural Technology Management Agency (ATMA), para teachers under the Sarva Siksha Abhiyan, Sakti Sahayikas, IKP Animators under the National Rural Livelihood Mission, teachers working under the Kasturba Balika Vidyalaya scheme, Sakshar Bharat, the Grameen Rojgar Sevaks, NREGA field assistants employed in the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, etc participated in the mahapadav raising the slogan ‘No to honorarium or Incentive; we demand Minimum Wages and Social Security Benefits’


These workers have come from all over the country including from far off states like Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Kerala, Tamilnadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Odisha, West Bengal, and also from Jammu and Kashmir, in addition to all the ‘Hindi speaking’ states of Bihar, Jharkhand, Chattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Rajasthan and Delhi with the largest contingents coming from Haryana and Punjab.


Around 10,000 ‘scheme workers’ from far off places who have reached the national capital earlier and were camping at Ramlila Maidan marched in an attractive and disciplined procession to Jantar Mantar while all the others reached Jantar Mantar directly.


Hemalata, secretary, CITU welcomed this unprecedented mobilisation of ‘scheme workers’ being organised by Centre of Indian Trade Unions. Tapan Sen, MP and general secretary of CITU inaugurated the ‘mahapadav’ while A K Padmanabhan, presided. National office bearers of CITU, Neelima Maitra and A R Sindhu, president and general secretary of All India Federation of Anganwadi Workers and Helpers and state level leaders of ASHAs, mid day meal workers were on the dais.


Addressing the gathering A K Padmanabhan called upon all the scheme workers to unitedly fight against the neoliberal policies of the government which led to increasing exploitation of all workers. He called upon them to join with all the other sections of the workers to intensify the struggle against these policies. 


Inaugurating the ‘mahapadav’, Tapan Sen said the government of India was committing a fraud upon the people through its inhuman exploitation of the workers who were providing the most important services related to health, education, food and nutrition for the people, particularly for the poor women and children. The workers who contributed to the human development of the country were forced to starve and suffer because of this atrocious attitude of the government which called them ‘social workers’, ‘activists’, ‘friends’, ‘guests’ etc just to deny them the status of workers.


Tapan Sen demanded that these services should be provided as rights and entitlements to all the citizens and not through ‘schemes’ and ‘programmes’ which can be withdrawn any time as per the whims and fancies of the government of the day and that all the workers in different government schemes should be recognised as workers with all the attendant benefits including minimum wages and social security benefits.


A team of 11 CITU leaders including Hemalata, Varalakshmi, national secretaries, Mercy Kutti Amma, vice president of CITU, Surender Malik, Pramod Pradhan, Prem Nath Rai, general secretaries of the state committees of Haryana, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh respectively, Uma Maheswara Rao, Tapan Sharma, Gajendra Jha and Radha Raman Sarangi, office bearers of the Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Chattisgarh and Odisha state committees of CITU and Deven Patel, leader of the state government employees and anganwadi employees in Chattisgarh started a fast  for two days, during the duration of the ‘mahapadav’ in solidarity with the demands of the ‘scheme workers’.


A R Sindhu, general secretary of AIFAWH said that the exploitation of the ‘scheme workers’ was the biggest scam in the country. Ranjana Nirula, treasurer of CITU and convenor of the all India coordination committee of ASHAS criticised the government for exploiting the services of lakhs of women workers in the name of ‘social work’. Neelima Maitra, president of AIFAWH spoke on the need of all scheme workers to come together. Leaders of different state committees of CITU and of the different organisations participating in the ‘mahapadav’ spoke and strongly criticised the government for providing lakhs of crores of rupees as concessions in taxes to the corporates and the rich while arguing that there were no funds for improving the conditions of the workers in its different schemes.


Prakash Karat, general secretary of CPI(M) greeted the gathering and expressed full support to their struggle. He said that the government, instead of ensuring the rights of the people to their basic needs of health, education, food and work was starting some schemes without adequate financial allocations. At the same time the around one crore workers employed in these schemes were denied their basic rights as workers. There was no difference between the Congress and the BJP led governments as far as the pro rich economic policies were concerned. He commended the scheme workers for displaying exemplary unity irrespective of caste, religion, language, region etc and stressed the need to build a strong movement against the anti people policies of the government.


Sitaram Yechury, MP and Polit Bureau member of the CPI(M) exhorted the scheme workers to intensify their struggle outside the parliament while the MPs from the CPI(M) would continue to raise their demands from within the parliament. He criticised the prime minister for not taking effective measures for implementing even his own assurances made several years ago on providing ‘parting gift’ to the anganwadi employees when they demanded pension.


Brinda Karat, Polit Bureau member of CPI(M) also addressed the gathering and congratulated the large numbers of women workers for their participation in the historic struggle. She criticised the government for claiming to empower women while subjecting lakhs of women workers to such inhuman exploitation.


Leaders of several trade unions including Bhatnagar from All India Insurance Employees’ Association, Abhimanyu from BSNL employees’ union, Subhash Lamba from All India State Government Employees’ Association not only greeted the participants expressing their solidarity but also extended financial assistance for the struggle. S Ramachandran Pillai, president and N K Shukla, secretary of AIKS, Sudha Sundararaman, general secretary of All India Democratic Women’s Association, Vijaya Raghavan, general secretary of All India Agricultural Workers’ Union, PK Biju, CPI(M) MP greeted the ‘mahapadav’. K Varada Rajan, general secretary of AIKS, Subhashini Ali, former president of AIDWA and several MPs visited the ‘mahapadav’ and expressed their solidarity with the scheme workers’ struggle. Eminent economists Prabhat Patnaik and Utsa Patnaik congratulated the CITU for leading the struggle on the demands of the scheme workers and asserted that their demands of recognition of workers and minimum wages of Rs 10,000 were most genuine. There was no dearth of financial resources provided the government had the political will.  


Addressing the ‘mahapadav’ Hemalata called upon the scheme workers to intensify the struggle on their common demands. She called upon the scheme workers to strengthen their unity and help one another to organise. She warned that if the government did not concede to the genuine demands of the scheme workers next time they would come in lakhs and not in thousands.


Concluding the historic ‘mahapadav’, Tapan Sen said that the CITU was determined to continue the struggle on the demands of recognition as workers, minimum wages of Rs 10,000, social security benefits and regularisation of scheme workers. He called upon them to join the courting of arrest on December 18 – 19 and March to Parliament on December 20 and in the all India general strike on February 20 – 21, 2013. Delhi state committees of CITU and CPI(M) made untiring efforts for the success of the ‘mahapadav’.


Parcham and Jana Natya Manch presented songs and street plays in solidarity with the demands of the scheme workers. The ‘mahapadav’ was made vibrant with the songs and dances which went on throughout the night despite the cold and chill. The unity in diversity characteristic of the country was in full display with workers from different states rendering songs in different languages and speakers addressing the gathering in different languages.


The ‘mahapadav’ enthused not only the participants but also the entire trade union and democratic movement in the country. The grit and determination of the workers, particularly the women workers who came in such large numbers, travelling for 2-3 days and spending the day and night on the street in the cold with hardly anything to protect themselves demonstrated their fighting spirit. Now, this spirit of struggle and unity has to be carried forward to build a strong organisation and further intensify the struggles against exploitation and for a just society.