People's Democracy(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
June 10, 2007
CITU GENERAL COUNCIL CALL
Countrywide Strike Of Unorganised Sector On August 8
Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee with Jyoti Basu at the CITU rally in Kolkata
THE meeting of CITU general council held on May 27-30, 2007 at Salt Lake Stadium in Kolkata concluded with a clarion call to organise a countrywide strike on August 8, 2007 in the entire unorganised sector to press for immediate enactment of a comprehensive legislation for the unorganised sector workers – a commitment the UPA government had made to the people while assuming power at the centre and put in black and white in the National Common Minimum Programme (NCMP).
The general council noted that the UPA combine is making a mockery of its commitment of a “comprehensive protective legislation” for the agricultural workers and workers of the unorganised sector. Even after passage of three years of their assuming office, this commitment could not figure in their priority list. And in the face of mounting criticism from all corners, now the government is making some half-hearted face-saving exercise. The bill on unorganised sector reportedly cleared by the union cabinet as per press reports contains nothing substantive for the unorganised sector workers. It contains a generalised statement of pious intent on certain welfare schemes but nothing about its funding arrangement, enforcement mechanism and guaranteed coverage of all unorganised sector workforce without which the bill will be reduced to some pages in statute book and nothing more. The unanimous recommendations of all the central trade unions on the concrete measures and provisions to be incorporated in the bill have been totally ignored. It is nothing but a bluff to the 93 per cent of the workforce in the unorganised sector who contribute more than 65 per cent to country’s increasing GDP, the general council asserted.
The unorganised sector workers will thus launch their strong protest by staging countrywide strike action on August 8 and the organised sector workers will hold solidarity demonstrations throughout the country on that day. And on the second day of the monsoon session of parliament (in July 2007) the CITU will observe an “All India Demands Day” throughout the country, including in the national capital through massive demonstrations and rallies.
The meeting of the general council of CITU commenced on May 27, 2007 with the hoisting of the CITU flag by M K Pandhe, president CITU and offering floral tributes at the martyrs’ column by the leaders and general council members of the CITU.
The general council unanimously elected Md. Amin as general secretary of CITU, which fell vacant due to the sudden demise of Comrade Chittabrata Majumdar on February 21. The general council also elected Basudeb Acharia, MP as vice president of CITU in the consequential vacancy.
Subhas Chakraborty, chairman of reception committee in his welcome address briefly apprised the general council on the current situation in West Bengal. The Left Front government of West Bengal has been discharging the most challenging task of carrying on its pro-people governance combating the limitations imposed by the neo-liberal policy framework and the malicious campaign of the right reactionary and extremist forces. The working class and democratic movement in the state has been on the streets in defending the Left Front braving physical onslaughts of the reactionary forces and embracing martyrdom, facing evictions etc.
M K Pandhe delivered the presidential address. He dealt at length on the international developments which points to the desperate and aggressive hegemonistic machinations of the imperialist forces led by US administration on the one hand and mounting resentment worldwide against such imperialist designs expressed through louder voice of protest by the people and fierce struggle by the toiling classes against the hegemonistic economic designs on the other. This warrants the working class movement to sharpen the anti-imperialist edge of its struggle and play more effective role in strengthening the international solidarity movement against imperialism.
Md Amin presented the general secretary’s report. The report dealt at length the developments in the national arena and the role of the Left forces in mounting pressure against the anti-people economic policies of the UPA government at the political level on the one hand and the frontline role of the working class movement in championing the cause of toiling peoples’ right to livelihood through countrywide mobilisation and struggle on the other. Report made a specific mention about the malicious campaign let loose by the reactionary and extremist forces against the Left forces throughout the country taking advantage of some unfortunate and unwelcome happening in West Bengal which seeks to weaken the Left and democratic polity and undermine all its achievements thereby weaken the struggles against the anti-people economic policies of neo-liberalism. The working class movement must foil such conspiracy of the reactionary forces through united struggle, the report asserted.
The report expressed concern over the pursuit of the same economic policy regime of the NDA by the UPA government which has harmful effects on the life and livelihood of the common people in the form of continuous price rise, increasing unemployment, aggravating crisis in agriculture, farmers’ suicides etc. The very phenomenon of aggravating poverty and increasing unemployment along with increase in the GDP growth rate and increase in the number of Indian billionaires in the country speaks about the perverse distortion in the economic policy regime and its unsustainability, the report asserted. What is required is a change in the direction of the policy regime towards more distributive equity. The government is reluctant to implement the pro-people commitments made in the NCMP and all its policy initiatives are moving in the opposite direction as exposed by the last budget proposals. The much talked about unorganised sector workers’ bill reportedly cleared by the cabinet in its existing format is nothing but jugglery of words which is not going to benefit the workers in any substantive way. The united movement of the trade unions is facing brutal onslaughts by the employers almost everywhere in the country with direct patronage by most of the state governments.
The report emphasised the urgency of going in for nationwide united action by the working class along with other sections against the economic policies and CITU will have to take the initiative in that direction, the report stated. The report outlined the directions of the movement in the days to come which would comprise numerous sectoral level actions to culminate in a countrywide united action by the entire working class. The workers and peasants must work together to develop the anti liberalisation struggle into a peoples’ movement and CITU must work in that direction, the report asserted.
Leaders from the fraternal trade union organisations including K Venugopal (All India Insurance Employees Association), Mihir Dasgupta (BSNL Employees Union), Prabir Sengupta (All India State Govt Employees Federation), Saila Bhattacharya(All India Defence Employees Federation), K K N Kutty (All India Income Tax Employees Federation), C. C. Pillai (All India RMS/MMS Employees Association) Dilip Mukherjee (All India RRB Employees Association) and Amitava Guha (FMRAI) greeted the general council and expressed solidarity.
DEBATE ON THE REPORT
On May 28-29, 2007 the CITU general council discussed the general secretary’s report.48 members took part in the discussions. The speeches reflected broad convergence of understanding on the frontline role to be played by the working class movement in vigorously refuting the malicious campaign against the Left forces which represents the political mouthpiece of the movement of the toiling people.
The speakers also stressed upon the urgent need for building a phased campaign as a follow up to the last general strike of December 14, 2006 to culminate in a much bigger countrywide strike action against the economic policy issues. In view of the ongoing drive to resume the disinvestment/privatisation process in the strategic sector of the economy and deregulation of the financial sector much to the detriment of the national economy and toiling people, the speakers stressed upon the need for intensification of united actions in the concerned sectors. Urgent steps have also been suggested to hold the all India convention of contract workers to unleash a countrywide struggle against the menace of rampant contractorisation and outsourcing in various forms with the alternative proposals to amend the Contract Labour(R&A) Act as decided by the 12th conference. During the deliberations a countrywide strike on the demands of the unorganised sector workers was also mooted.
Leadership of various industry-wise federations like the All India Federation of Anganwadi Workers and Helpers, Steel Workers Federation of India, Construction Workers Federation of India, All India Road Transport Workers’ Federation, All India Beedi Workers’ Federation, Water Transport Workers Federation of India, Electricity Employees Federation of India, All India Coal Workers Federation, Petroleum & Natural Gas Workers Federation of India and All India Fisheries Workers Federation also took active part in the deliberations and stressed upon the urgency of organising countrywide united action. They reported the initiatives already taken for sectoral actions at the all India level.
Speakers focussed on the immediate initiatives to be taken by CITU to coordinate all these sectoral actions and plan for countrywide united movement by the entire working class in collaboration with other central trade unions and federations. They also emphasised on the need for further advancing the initiatives already taken for workers-peasants joint action against economic policy related issues. Based on above suggestions, the general council finalised the future course of action.
Md Amin replied to the points raised in course of deliberations and reiterated the urgency of consolidating and strengthening the organisational base of CITU to enable itself to confront the challenges and rally the people in the struggle against neo-liberalism and divisive forces. The general council adopted the general secretary’s report with the following concrete tasks:
As a follow up of workers-peasants joint programme on April 18, 2007, a national convention of CITU, All India Kisan Sabha and All India Agricultural Workers’ Union will be held at New Delhi, during the first week of September 2007 to decide the future course of joint campaigns and agitation. The CITU centre will shortly finalise the date of the convention in consultations with the AIKS and AIAWU.
Initiative will be taken by CITU to consult other central trade unions and federations in the Sponsoring Committee of trade unions to decide the next course of united campaign and agitation, including strike, against the economic policies of the UPA government and on 16-point charter of demands formulated by the Sponsoring Committee.
Preparatory campaign and agitation by the public sector unions for countrywide strike action in all the public sector units will be organised on the demands pertaining to Seventh Round of Wage Revision in PSUs and against anti-worker guidelines issued by DPE, as per the Declaration adopted by the CPSTU convention dated March 11.
As decided by the 12th conference of CITU, all India convention of Contract Workers will be held at the earliest to formulate trade unions’ alternative proposals for amendments to Contract Labour (R&A) Act, in view of mass scale contractorisation.
The general council reiterated the decision taken by the 12th conference of CITU to observe birth centenary year of our founder general secretary and a stalwart of Indian working class movement Comrade P Ramamurti, commencing from September 23, 2007 in a befitting manner by organising an intensive educational and ideological campaign at all levels of the organisation. It is proposed to start the birth centenary with a massive mobilisation in Kolkata and culminate on September 23, 2008 with a similar mobilisation in Chennai. The CITU centre has to finalise setting up of the P Ramamurti Institute of Trade Union Education and Research in New Delhi within a year. Trade union schools will be organised by the CITU centre in three regions – eastern, southern and for the Hindi speaking states. The CITU centre will also publish literature on ideological and organisational issues facing the trade union movement in the country; a commemoration volume dedicated to Comrade P Ramamurti and special numbers of CITU journals will be brought out containing articles on the life and contribution of Comrade Ramamurti to the trade union movement in our country. Seminars, trade union classes, memorial lectures etc., will be conducted at the state and industry levels.
All the state committees should take vigorous initiatives to fulfill the membership target of 50 lakhs as decided by the 12th conference within a period of one year. Serious effort should also be made to increase the circulation of CITU journals and take them at least to union level activists and committee members.
On the occasion of completion of 30 years of Left Front government in West Bengal, an intensive three-month long countrywide campaign will be launched through various forms. The CITU centre will chalk out a detailed programme on this.
M K Pandhe in his concluding address emphasised on concerted initiatives at all levels of CITU to implement the decisions taken by the general council in respect of movements and organisation. He pointed out that in the background of mounting resentment across the world against the imperialist machinations in various forms of mobilisations and organised actions by the toiling people, the assertion of Left wing ideologies is gradually gaining increasing prominence throughout the world and the inefficacy of the capitalist order is getting exposed owing to its failure to address the crisis in the system expressed through widespread impoverishment, disparity and unemployment etc., despite all economic growth. In such a background, it is but natural that the adversaries of the Left, the media, ideologues of the imperialist camp and the bourgeoisie itself will redouble its initiative to malign and isolate Left forces organisationally and ideologically. We must analyse the real import of the present onslaught against the Left forces in our country, particularly focussed on West Bengal and other Left ruled states. Working class movement which is the life line of Left consciousness must have to assert itself in combating the ideological and organisational offensive of bourgeoisie and the decision of the general council in this regard has to be implemented in letter and spirit, Pandhe asserted.
At the end, veteran leader of the working class movement, Samar Mukherjee, released the Souvenir published by the reception committee. Ranjit Kundu, general secretary of the reception committee offered vote of thanks.
On May 30, which also coincides with the 37th foundation day of CITU, a huge public meeting was held in the Salt Lake central park. Shyamal Chakraborty, president, West Bengal state CITU, presided and Jyoti Basu, veteran leader of CITU and the democratic movement, M K Pandhe, Md Amin, Buddhadeb Bhattacharya, chief minister of West Bengal, Kali Ghosh, general secretary of West Bengal state CITU, Subhas Chakraborty, transport minister of West Bengal, Amitava Nandy, MP and Ranjit Kundu addressed the meeting.