People's Democracy

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


No. 51

December 23, 2007

Coal Workers Pledge To Fight

Outsourcing And Imports


                                                               Jibon Roy


THE silver jubilee conference of All India Coal Workers Federation of India was held in Chandrapur, Maharastra from November 23-25, 2007.


It is a great pride for Indian working class movement that the Coal Workers Federation has emerged as a determined fighting force in the struggle against privatisation and globalisation. They as could keep the government and Coal India management restrained from passing the coal denationalisation bill into an enactment.  Government could not pass the bill because of the opposition of the workers, though it had been introduced in Rajya Sabha ten years back.  Thus the working class in the country,   head counted at the beginning of this century as six and half lakhs, now reduced to four and half lakhs could hold back the US led reform in Coal sector which the one million strong British coal miners failed to do during Margaret Thatcher’s regime in eighties. Indian coal workers could draw the comparison between the lives under private regime and the public which British coal miners could hardly conceive as they had very little experience about the life during private rule.


The Indian coal miners   came forward to form a united platform to warn the government of continuous strike if it embarks on a privatisation spree.


The coal workers participated in all the nationwide strikes called during last one and half decades against privatisation, liberalisation and globalisation.  Coal workers brought a difference in the public sector workers struggle when they forced the NCW VII, a five year settlement against ten years in other industries.


The National Federation unified the workers into trade union movement and then into a National Federation, educated and guided them to a fighting tradition. The All India Coal Workers Federation of India worked for twenty five years amongst the coal workers and gradually emerged as the most trusted leader of coal workers movement and also as a teacher, philosopher and guide. This Federation because of its commitment to unity and united struggle could make itself also as the platform of unity of all national federations functioning in the industry.  Coal is the only sector in Indian industries, where all the major struggles during the last ten years had been fought jointly by all national federations together.  A tradition is established of coming and meeting together and also taking common programme of actions both for struggle and over all intellectual development of coal workers. This is possible when a trade union attains its individual capability to rouse the workers into a unity of action; other trade unions too get automatically charged with the desire of unity.  In this connection it may be recalled that the All India Coal workers Federation had to attain the capacity to strike by itself in the entire industry.


When the seventh conference was decided to be held in Chandrapur, the tiny coal city of Vidarbha region in    Maharastra, people there were enthused. Workers came forward to organise fund, materials and human resources for making the conference a great success. Large number of people participated in the public meeting and in the inaugural session.  Public meeting was held on November 23, 2007  Speakers who addressed the  public meeting were M K Pandhe,  CITU president,  S K Bakshi,  working president of  AICWF and Tazuddin, general secretary of Lalzhanda Coal Mines Union, an affiliate and the main organiser of the conference. K L Bajaj, president Maharastra CITU, presided.


Chandrapur Unit of the Laljhanda Coal Mines Union took the main responsibility and successfully organized the conference.  The hall was named  after  the legendary trade union leader and founder of coal workers  movement in the region Comrade Bindya Prosad Kashyap. 


The conference began with the hoisting of AICWF flag by the Federation and CITU president, M K Pandhe on November 23, 2007. The inaugural session was addressed by Shantaram Potdukhe, former union minister and three time MP of the region. He was the chairman of the reception committee. K L Bajaj also addressed the inaugural session.  Delegate session began in the evening of 23rd. Arunalok Banerjee, and Shyamal Dutta presented the general secretary’s and treasurer’s report.


 363 delegates representing nine coal companies and allied offices participated in the conference. 33 delegates participated in the discussions. The level of discussion and balanced distribution of topics is indicative of rising level of consciousness. Discussions centered on wages and allied issues, on policy issues like outsourcing, privatization, scrapping of mines, mines protection and subsidence and on the matter of safety that is intimately connected with the life of coal miners. Working class role on issues like Nandigram also came up for discussion. Anti-imperialist struggle and organizational matters were discussed at length.  Credential report of the conference suggests that  coal workers began breaking the earlier social backwardness and educated workers are joining  AICF in good numbers. 


Widening of organisational base  is an important milestone recorded in the silver jubilee conference.  The Federation president mentioned that the influence the AICWF occupies amongst the coal workers must be converted into organisation. Jibon Roy, the vice president explained that no influence can carry consequence for long term unless it is converted to organisation.  Bansagopal Chaudhury,  MP dealt two most important issues concerned with coal workers movement i.e. safety and corruption.  CITU president, M K Pandhe, two national secretaries including K L Bajaj and Badal Saroj, Madhya Pradesh state CITU general secretary were present in the conference all through out.


The conference passed seven resolutions including condolence and martyr resolutions. Other resolutions were against outsourcing and contractorisation, on trade union unity, against atrocious proposals for amending labour law, against Indo-US nuclear deal, against atrocities on women. S K Bakshi replied to the discussions on behalf of the general secretary.


President of the Federation, M K Pandhe both in his inaugural and concluding speech raised the issues which concerned the coal workers. He expressed concern at the lack of initiative in the Coal ministry in exploring Indian coals and depending more on imports despite the fact that India is having a proved reserve of 256 billion tones coking and non-coking coal together.  He pointed out that despite the fact that nationalisation has enormously improved the coal raising and stopped the earlier practice of mine slaughtering by the private mine owners, government is resorting to privatisation. Though the privatisation bill is still awaiting parliament approval, owing to public protest, the government is resorting to hiving of mines blocks on various pretexts. As many as 60 such coal blocks went into private hands. Government would not invest on underground mining, improvement of other open cast mines or opening mine in green fields, but decided to import as much as 51 million tones from outside to meet the requirements of 11th plan.  He expressed concern at the deterioration of mine safety. Bipartite committees formed for the purpose do not meet regularly and decisions are not implemented faithfully. Falling of roofs continued to remain the major cause of underground accidents. But astonishingly, the number of accidents in open cast mines too is increasing.  He deplored the decision of the UPA government for going ahead with the nuclear deal with US, despite the majority in the Indian parliament opposing such a deal.  He explained how various segments of common people including tribals suffer from UPA’s policies.  Pandhe said the international conference of coal workers was held in Kolkata from December 14-16, 2007.  Pandhe called upon the coal workers to carry forward the unity achieved in the industry and  he emphasised this unity could be achieved  only when CITU unions are strengthened. 


The conference formulated   a  charter of demands and  a series of  action programmes  were finalised. Demands include

·                      Defeat  privatisation, liberalisation and globalisation.

·                      Defend public sector in coal industry and self reliance

·                      Investment for revival of DCC, NEC and CMPDI

·                      New recruitment and stopping of outsourcing and contractorisation

·                      Stop illegal mining 

·                      Ensure compensation for land losers

·                      Take steps against land subsidence

·                      Ensure minimum wage in CIL to contractor workers

·                      Strengthen mine safety

·                      Stop closure of mine till they are exhausted.

·                      Stop any atrocious change in the labour law

·                      No delay in the settlement of PLF and Pension

·                       Immediate settlement of lJBCCI-VIII and ensuring a decent wage at the minimum level.


The conference called on the coal workers to join the demonstration called by all trade unions together on December 20, 2007.  It has also called upon the coal workers to join the January 8, 2008 rally in thousands in support of decent work and wages for contract workers.


The conference re-elected M K Pandhe as the president of the Federation, Bansagopal Chaudhury, MP as one of the vice presidents, Jibon Roy as the general secretary and P K Banerjee as the treasurer.