(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
August 24 , 2008
THE working class all over the country magnificently responded to the call for general strike on August 20, 2008. More than eight crore workers and employees, both from organised and unorganised sector and across all sections of economy joined the strike action. The strike got converted into a complete bandh in West Bengal, Kerala and Tripura. Notable in all these three states is the huge, spontaneous response and participation of the striking workers in processions and demonstrations. Besides these three states, a bandh like situation prevailed in Assam, Jharkhand, Manipur and in substantial segments and districts of Karnataka and Orissa owing to massive enmasse participation of workers across the affiliations and massive support of people from other walks of life. In Punjab and Haryana, roadways workers’ total strike has paralysed the normal traffic in both the states.
The strike call was given to press for six- point demands covering all sections of the working populace. It was aimed at voicing the protest of the toiling people against the anti-worker, anti-people neoliberal economic policies of the government at the centre leading to relentless price rise, deepening and widening poverty and pauperisation of common masses, rising unemployment and falling real wages, that too in the face of increasing GDP growth rate, increasing atrocities on labour and mass scale violation of labour laws, mass scale contractorisation and outsourcing in violation of existing laws etc. It was also to remind the government of the commitments made in their “National Common minimum Programme” regarding the pro-people measures like comprehensive legislation for the unorganised sector and agricultural workers in respect of their social security rights and protection of jobs and service conditions. The strike was also to resist the surreptitious move of the UPA government to make pro-employer changes in the labour laws to introduce ‘hire & fire’ regime and dilute the existing social security benefits of the workers and employees and hand over their life-long hard-earned social security savings to the speculator companies. And finally, the strike was also to caution those sitting in the governance and their hired philosophers that the toiling people of the country cannot be taken for granted.
The sponsoring committee of trade unions comprising major central trade unions viz., AITUC, CITU, HMS, AICCTU, AIUTUC, UTUC, TUCC and the all India Federations of employees in telecom, railways, defence, banks, insurance, airports, various public sector units, central and state government offices and departments etc., gave the call for the general strike. The sponsoring committee congratulates the working class and toiling people of the country for the magnificent strike action. The committee expresses gratitude for the supportive actions by the fraternal mass organisations of peasants, agricultural workers, women, students and youth etc., in the form of demonstration, road-roko, rail-roko and thus converting the general strike into peoples’ action throughout the country. The sponsoring committee also urges the UPA government to take lesson from the strike and mend their anti-people policies.
Despite the national leadership of INTUC and BMS staying away from the general strike as usual, it could cast little effect on the massive sweep and depth of the countrywide strike action. At grass root level many of the BMS and INTUC affiliates and followers joined the strike action in a big way. In coal mines throughout the country, most of the workers from the INTUC and BMS unions have joined the strike action. In the banking and insurance sector almost total strike reflects the wholehearted participation of the followers of INTUC and BMS affiliated unions in the strike action. Thus the twelfth countrywide general strike by the working class against the policies of liberalisation, privatisation and globalisation and attack on labour rights has reflected much broader unity at the grass root level.
The strike attained a new dimension when the UPA government, after surviving the confidence vote in parliament with the help of their new-found friends through dubious immoral means, expressed their arrogant desire to move fast on the their unfinished agenda of neoliberal reform in the form of privatisation of public sector undertakings, deregulation of financial sector, bringing pro-employer changes in labour laws, allowing private speculators and foreign companies to handle the social security savings of workers etc., so long stalled by the Left parties. The working class responded to the call of August 20 general strike with greater vigour to send a clear message that the government’s evil design shall not pass. This strike has also reflected firm opposition of the working class to the government’s surrendering approach to imperialist maneuvers in various forms and means.
These are pointers to the urgent need for the working class to further heighten its activities and prepare for sustained actions in the coming period. The sponsoring committee of trade unions called upon the working class to prepare for future struggles to force the government to change its anti-national and anti-people policies.
The overwhelming majority of around one crore government employees in the country, both in central and state governments staged the biggest ever strike action in all the state government offices and establishments in most of the states in the country barring a few. In the central government sector, overwhelming section of employees in the telecom, postal departments, AG office, Income tax and audit offices joined the strike in a big way throughout the country braving threats and prohibition. More than eighty per cent of the defence sector employees working in 41 ordinance factories and depots under Army, Navy and Airforce, the MES offices and 50 DRDO laboratories all over the country have joined the strike action at the call of All India Defence Employees Federation.
The massive strike and participation of the employees of Airports and civil aviation sector in the day-long dharna in all the 124 airports in the country has affected air-traffic in a big way. The government had to deploy airforce in 21 major airports of the country to maintain the flight schedule there, but in vain.
Another notable feature of the strike has been the noticeable participation of the unorganised sector workers in organising road-blockade, rail-roko in different parts of the country and the frontline role of the women workers in the same.
Sector-wise impact of strike can be described as under:
The entire financial sector covering the banks and the insurance companies witnessed almost total strike throughout the country involving around 20 lakh workers and employees.
More than 10 million state government employees, teachers, employees of state public sector, boards and corporations covering almost all states of the country participated in the strike in a massive way.
Around two million central government employees covering around 80 per cent of the workforce joined the strike.
In the Petroleum sector, both in upstream, refineries and marketing, strike was almost total in eastern, north eastern and southern parts of the country and partial in north and western India.
In steel, strike was massive in Durgapur and IISCO and partial in other places.
Strike by the telecom workers and employees under BSNL and MTNL was more than 70 per cent throughout the country.
Of the six-lakh coal-mining workers in nine companies, viz., ECL, BCCL, CCL, SECL, NCL, WCL, CMPDIL, Singareni Collieries etc., more than 70 per cent workers joined the strike action. In the non-coal mining belt as well, spreading over Jharkhand, Orissa Chattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh, strike was near total.
The city of Bangalore and Hyderabad and Visakhapatnam, the centres of concentration of public sector units in the country witnessed massive strike in all the PSUs there. The contract workers in these PSUs have also joined the strike in a big way.
In the plantation sector throughout the country strike was near total.
Unorganised sector workers in brick-kilns, head-load, beedi, and mandi-workers took part in strike in a big way, and organised rail-roko and rasta-roko at various centres throughout the country.
The construction workers, both from the organised and unorganised sector responded to the strike call in a big way.
The construction workers in all the hydel-projects under construction in the state of Himachal Pradesh, Uttaranchal and Jammu were on complete strike.
Around eight lakh anganwadi workers throughout the country also participated in the strike in a big way.
Fishers and fisheries workers took part in the strike in several lakhs throughout the country.
The transport workers, both from the state and private sector responded to strike call magnificently.
Electricity workers joined the strike in a big way in most of the states.
Andhra Pradesh: Strike was successful in the state. Industrial area around Hyderabad witnessed more than 70 per cent strike. Among municipal workers, strike was almost total. The central and state government offices were almost vacant. Strike in large industrial units like Reddy Laboratory, Arabinda Pharmacy, Organic Factory, Vizag Steel Plant, etc., was sizable. Strike was hundred percent in all the eleven Jute Mills. Rail roko and rasta roko was organised throughout the state. Railway and other workers demonstrated in different parts of the state.
Assam: The strike was almost 100 per cent in the state. In Guwahati, public vehicles including private city buses, autorickshaws were off the road. Workers picketed the bus terminals and railway stations at Guwahati, Rangiya and Bongaigaon. Picketing workers, besides several leaders, including Deben Bhatacharya, general secretary, Assam state CITU were arrested by the police. Bank, LIC, BSNL, postal, defence, motor transport and state and central government employees participated in the strike. In oil sector, the strike is almost total. BRPL, NRL and in Digboi strike was complete.
Haryana: Complete strike in Haryana Road Transport Corporation and almost total strike in Electricity Board was there. Industrial areas in Panipat, Gurgaon, Sonepat and Faridabad were severely affected as all the major factories witnessed massive strike. Non-teaching employees of both Rohtak and Kurukshetra University were on total strike while in Hissar Agricultural University, strike was fifty per cent. In Panipat, strike was total among the handloom workers, while in spinning mills, strike was around 60 per cent. 90 per cent municipal workers throughout the state were on strike. Contract workers at National Fertilisers and IOC Refinery at Panipat were on strike. Striking workers of the unorganised sector of brick kiln, forest, construction etc., organised rallies in several places in the state and held demonstrations. Around 8000 anganwadi workers in 45 projects in the state were on strike.
Himachal Pradesh: All the hydel project workers were on complete strike. The industrial areas of Solan, Parawanoo, Sirmour, Hamirpur reported massive response to strike call. Among anganwadi and mid-day meal workers in the state, strike was almost total. The hotel workers at Shimla were on total strike. The central government offices, banks, insurance, telecom offices also reported total strike. Massive demonstration was held in front of all the district headquarters in the state except one.
Jharkhand: Total strike in Coal, bank and insurance sectors was observed. Coal production and dispatch was totally paralysed. Train services were badly affected owing to rail-roko agitation throughout the state. Petroleum transportation was also stopped. Complete strike in Bauxite industry in Lohargada and Indian Explosives factory was observed. Industrial areas of Adityapur and Gamaria were completely closed and more than 175 workers were arrested from the procession. HEC and Bokaro steel plant reported partial strike. Road transport services were seriously disrupted. Markets were closed. Workers of unorganised sector viz., stone quarries, beedi, construction, private transport etc., participated in the strike in a big way. In all the places throughout the state, big processions by the striking workers created paralysing effect particularly at Dumaka, Ranchi, Dhanbad and Jamshedpur.
Karnataka: Bandh like situation emerged in eighteen districts out of 29 in the state viz., South Kanara, Kolar, Mandya, Bellary, Belgaum, Mysore, Raichur, Tunmkur and five taluks in Bangalore. State and central government employees participated in the strike en masse. One lakh eighty thousand auto-rickshaws were off the road. In Bangalore in all PSUs, the strike was almost 100 per cent and the contract workers and officers also joined. In major private sector companies in Bangalore and Mysore like Mico, ITC etc., and in almost all medium and small factories, massive strike took place. In South Kanada, leaders including CITU president B Madhava got arrested by police while leading a procession of striking workers.
Madhya Pradesh: Bandh like situation has emerged in three districts viz., Gwalior, Sheopuri and Dasra. Coal industry witnessed 80 per cent strike. In National Fertiliser Ltd in Guna, production work got paralysed owing to strike by contract workers. In Jabalpur, in the Defence ordnance factory the strike was 90 per cent. The industrial areas of Mandidip, Gobindpura around Bhopal, industrial units at Gwalior, Indore, Jabalpur, Bina, Guna, Ratlam etc., reported massive strike by the industrial workers. The unorganised sector workers of beedi, loading-unloading, rice-mills, anganwadi etc., joined the strike in a big way.
Maharashtra: The industrial centers of Navi-Mumbai/Thane, Nasik, Pune, Solapur, Ichhalkaranji, Nagpur , Aurangabad etc., reported massive response to strike call both from organised and unorganised sector workers. Banks, insurance, anganwadi, home based, gram panchyat and electricity workers joined the strike. Massive processions were taken out by the striking workers at Mumbai(20,000), Nasik (10,000), Aurangabad (5000), Nagpur(7000) and Solapur(5000). Rail roko at two centres disrupted train traffic.
Pondicherry: Strike affected normal life in this Union Territory. Complete strike in LPG Bottling plant was observed. Over 1000 workers, including women, were arrested.
Uttar Pradesh: All industrial centers of Saharanpur, Kanpur, Meerut, Bulandsahar, Bareli, Varanasi, Lucknow, Ferozabad, Farukhabad, Agra, Jhansi, Ghaziabad, Noida etc., reported massive strike action and militant demonstration. In Chandouli, Bulandsahar, Varanasi, Kanpur and other places road-blockade and rail rokos were organised. Power workers staged a boycott. Notable is the strike of 2,25,00 para teachers throughout the state. State government employees also took part in the strike in a big way. Among electricity workers, strike was 80 per cent. Unorganised sector workers including home-based workers in Ferozabad and Farukhabad, beediworkers in Rampur massively participated in the strike throughout the state. Contract workers in GAIL at Auria participated in strike.
Uttaranchal: Strike in Jal Nigam, Gadwal Vikash Nigam, and small industries was substantial. Strike in THDC was partial. In the Salakui Industrial Area and Langha Road Industrial Area around Dehradun, massive strike took place. At Salakui area, police brutally lathicharged on the demonstration of the striking workers injuring many. Besides complete strike in BSNL, banks, Insurance and Survey of India, strike was partial in BHEL. Anganwadi workers were on total strike. In Haridwar, municipal workers were on complete strike.
Chhattisgarh: The coal belt in the state reported above 75 per cent strike on the whole. The privatised Balco witnessed massive strike by contract workers and among regular workers strike was partial. In the iron ore mines at Dalli Rajhara, strike was to the tune of 90 per cent. The markets at Rajnandgaon and Dhamtari were closed owing to strike by all the workers. All the 102 ware houses in the state were closed due to strike. Beedi workers and anganwadi workers also joined the strike in a big way. In Bhilai Steel Plant, all the entry gates were jammed by thousands of workers from 5 am to 9 am. Police forcibly removed them injuring many workers.
Orissa: Almost complete bandh was observed in nine districts viz., Sundargarh, Keonjhar, Baleswar, Bhadrak, Cuttack, Khurda, Puri, Ganjam and Angul and public transport was off the road. In the industries in these districts, strike was almost total. Mahanadi Coal Field headquarter at Sambalpur was seized by the striking workers for couple of hours. In the iron-ore mines and sponge-iron belt of Orissa, strike was hundred percent. In Rourkela Steel Plant, strike was partial. Transport sector workers joined the strike in a big way affecting normal traffic throughout the state. In Sundargarh district 5000 workers were arrested while staging demonstrations.
Manipur: A bandh like situation has emerged on the strike day as the passenger-bus services, auto-rickshaws and other private transport were off the road and all shops, markets and establishments were closed. No flight has taken off from Imphal Airport. The government offices, post offices, BSNL and AG Offices were practically vacant owing to strike by the concerned employees.
Meghalaya: The employees in central government offices, public sector banks and college teachers of Meghalaya under the banner of the Meghalaya College Teachers’ Association participated in the massive and historic strike. The workers, employees and teachers organised a central rally in Shillong.