People's Democracy

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


Vol. XXXIV

No. 43

October 24, 2010

 

KARNATAKA

 

Militant Protest Compels CM to Agree for Meeting

 

ON October 20, the Karnataka state committee of the CITU organised a militant protest rally in Bangalore to highlight the pressing demands of the workers in the state. The procession started from the railway station with Red Shirt volunteers in the forefront and was led by the CITUís state office bearers. Around 15,000 workers participated in the huge rally. The procession passed through the main streets of Bangalore before the police tried to prevent the marching workers from going towards the Vidhana Soudha (Assembly Hall) in Freedom Park. There took place some scuffle between the police and the workers for more than 30 minutes, which created a situation of tension in the area. Then the workers demanded that the chief minister should come to the spot, receive their memorandum and take concrete steps to resolve the demands raised by the CITU through bilateral discussions.

 

After some time it is informed from the chief ministerís office that a senior cabinet minister would be arriving to receive the demands charter and address the issues raised by the protesters. Accordingly, Jagadish Setter, senior minister in the cabinet, arrived on the spot and, under the pressure from the workers, announced that the government would arrange a meeting with the chief minister on or before November 10.

 

One of the major demands raised was about fixation of a common minimum wage, based on skills, at Rs 6,000 all over the state and Rs 10,000 to the workers in the BMRDA (Bangalore Metropolitan Region Development Area) at the unskilled workers level at the prices prevailing in January 2008. All workers must be provided with BPL ration cards and get 35 kg of rice per family at Rs 2 per kg. The BJP had assured in its manifesto that rice would be supplied at  Rs 2 per kg if it came to power in the state, but the promise is not being implemented even after a lapse of two years and seven months period. Karnataka is the only south Indian state where rice is not provided to the people at Rs 2 per kg.

 

Other demands are that all workers must be provided free house sites and that the contract work system must be abolished in all departments, hospitals, municipalities, electricity supply companies and factories. The contract workers must be regularised. Further, readymade food supply to Anganwadi centres must be stopped; instead food grains and other materials must be supplied as is in the vogue. Gram panchayat workers must be treated as government servants, and special grant must be provided through the Finance Commission towards the salary component. There must be a welfare board for the unorganised workers and all of them must get the benefits such as old age pension, health and education assistance etc. In the Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC), elections must be conducted for recognition of the negotiating trade union; these elections are pending for the last 14 years. The minimum wages draft notification for beedi workers, specifying a payment of Rs 125 per 1000 beedies rolled, must be finalised without yielding to the pressure of  the beedi magnets. Headload workers must be covered under the Janashri insurance at the cost of the government and provided pension.

 

The protesters also demanded that the CITUís nominees must be included in the tripartite committees. Labour laws regarding minimum wages, bonus, ESI and EPF and the Sales Promotion Employees Act etc must be implemented vigorously.

 

This CITU rally was in continuation with the CITU agitation that began on November 7, 2008. Ten lakh signatures were submitted to the government by a massive rally on February 5, 2009; taluk level protest actions and district level militant picketings took place on September 15, 2009 and another state level rally took place on November 26, 2009. It was as a result of these continuous protest actions that the government had to call a meeting of the CITU leaders with the chief minister and decided to appointed an expert committee for fixing the common minimum wages.

 

The rally was presided over by K Shankar, vice president of the CITU state committee, in the absence of state CITU president V J K Nair who has undergone an operation and is under treatment. The rally was addressed by S Prasannakumar (general secretary), S Varalaxmi (national secretary), Maruthi Manpade (president, Gram Panchayat Workers Union), K N Umesh (CITU district secretary Bangalore), Syed  Mujib (state secretary, Beedi Workers Federation), K Mahanthesh (state secretary, CITU), Malini Mesta (general secretary, Mid-day Meal Workers Union) and N Veeraswamy (general secretary, All India Construction Workers Federationís state committee). Meenakshmi Sundaram (state CITU secretary) welcomed the gathering and explained the purpose of the state level rally.