People's Democracy(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
June 18, 2006
CITU Leaders Killed by the HCC Management Goons
THE Himachal Pradesh state committee of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) strongly condemns the killing of three CITU leaders by the management goons of Hindustan Construction Company (HCC). HCC is doing the construction work of Chamera-III Power Project at Chamba District. CITU had organised one-day protest at Dakog Dam site of the Project on June 11, 2006 demanding the implementation of the labour laws for the construction workers working in the company.
The management of HCC had threatened the workers of dire consequences, if they protest under the banner of CITU at the Dakog Dam site. Subsequently, the armed goons hired by the management of HCC attacked CITU leaders Babu Ram, district president Chamba, CITU, Vijay (Sirmour district), Dhan Singh (Uttaranchal) and Pramod Kumar (Sirmour district) killing three of the four leaders. Pramod Kumar was injured and managed to escape.
The CPI(M) knew that the private construction companies executing work of the power projects in the state are seriously violating the labour laws and exploiting workers. These private construction companies do not adhere to even the basic rights of the workers like minimum wages, medical facilities, compensation for injures and deaths during work and other facilities provided in labour laws. It may be noted that the same company i.e. the HCC, while executing the infamous 1500 MW Nathpa Jhakri Hydel Project had used similar kind of tactics killing Dev Dutt by hiring goons at one of the construction sites.
The CPI(M) has stated that the state possesses immense potential of generating hydel power. A large number of companies are entering the state for exploiting this potential. The state electricity board has enough resources to harness such a huge potential. But, going by the dictates and policies of the monetary agencies, the state government led by the Congress party is handing over such projects to private companies that too at a meagre 12% royalty. These private companies bribe the state officials to unprecedented heights in order to get such construction projects. As is the universal law no capital especially the industrial one can generate profits without exploiting the workers. The more it does more is the profit. It is this very reason that the managements of a large number of such companies are inherently against the formation of any union. Because they know once the union is formed the workers shall not only demand minimum wages but also several other associated rights. To get rid of all this, a practice of hiring goons from outside if locals do not agree, is a common trend followed by the managements and is what happened on June 10 where the CITU leaders were killed. After holding several rounds of meetings they were planning to organise the workers and form a union. They were even warned and threatened by the management to stop organising the workers or face dire consequences. As the leaders named above were coming back to their office, they were ambushed and attacked with knives and iron rods. Somehow one of the activists of CITU managed to escape and it was he who informed about the attack otherwise the reality would have never been disclosed as the site of the project (Chamera III) is in the interiors of Chamba district where the communications system is quite poor.
It is quite shocking that when the local administration was contacted over telephone from Shimla they were not even aware of the attack. The government so far has not come out with any response though the local MLA has expressed sorrow over the incident. As per the reports in the newspapers, the administration is trying to potray it as a quarrel among some individuals. At the time of writing this report, there was no information whether the bodies, which have been thrown in the Ravi river, have been brought out or not. Though a delegation of the party and kisan and trade union leaders has reached the spot but due to the poor communications no more information could be gathered.
However one thing has come to the fore that almost a mass of more than 3000 people have rounded up the office of the HCC and totally picketed it. Angry people, since the district president of the CITU, was a native of the area, have burnt a dozen vehicles of the company and demanded the immediate arrest of the culprits.
Immediate protests followed the next day. Thousands of workers in the hydel projects (as almost 90% of projects have unions affiliated to CITU) stopped their work on June 11 and the national highway leading to Manali was blocked for several hours by the workers of Largi. Similarly work was stopped in Barshani, Parvarti and in almost all the hydel projects. Thousands of workers in Rampur project where the work has just begun have brought to the work to a stand still and the national highway leading to Kinnaur was blocked. A militant protest was organised in Shimla town where workers from hotel industry, construction work, porters joined demanding the arrest of the culprits. On June 12 the hotel industry came to halt from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. because of the strike call given by the CITU. Hundreds of workers later joined the protest from the Deputy commissionerís office to Naaz.
The party demanded that culprits and management of the Hindustan construction company be arrested immediately for brutal murder of three CITU leaders. Compensation of Rs. 5 Lakh to the families of the leaders killed in the attack be given immediately. The state government should initiate action against HCC and blacklist this company and all the construction works given in various projects in the state should be taken back immediately. Keeping in view the seriousness of such anti working class attitude of private companies in different projects, the state government should seriously implement labour laws to protect the interests of the workers in the state particularly in power projects. Failing which, the CPI (M) would launch a state-wide agitation to press these demands.
Ps The two bodies have been brought to Chamba and the postmortem is being conducted. The third one is still not traced. It is indeed ironic the party has stated that when the govt. has made cateforical assurances that nearly 70 per cent of the workmen would be from the state and preferably from the effected part, no way near this figure is the actual reality. Moreover, professional goons have been hired by managements to see that the unions are not formed. (INN)