People's Democracy

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


No. 09

February 27, 2011


Workers’ Storm Delhi




IT was indeed an event that the national capital has not witnessed so far; an event unprecedented in the recent history of the trade union movement of independent India. Lakhs of workers – rickshaw pullers, auto drivers, construction workers, beedi rollers, anganwadi employees, ASHAs, mid day meal workers, loading and unloading workers and fishers and others in the many trades and occupations in the unorganised sector along with the public sector workers in coal, steel, electricity, road transport, railways, ports, workers in several industries in the private organised sector and the office employees in insurance, banks, telecom and defence sectors, state government and central government departments – marched shoulder to shoulder on the streets of Delhi. Significantly, a large proportion of this trade union rally consisted of women workers who came from far off places in the country leaving behind their children and families, to be part of this historic struggle.


Workers from all over the country stormed Delhi to vent their anger against the apathetic attitude of the Congress led UPA II government towards their demands which were continuously being raised unitedly by the entire trade union movement in different forms since the last two years.


They came to Delhi in response to the call of the central trade unions – CITU, AITUC, INTUC, HMS, AICCTU, AIUTUC, TUCC, UTUC and many industrial federations – to ‘March to Parliament’ on February 23, 2011. They came to Delhi to voice – not any of their pecuniary demands – but issues that were agitating the more than hundred crores common people of the country – the burning issues of price rise, employment, social security, implementation of labour laws and protection of our public sector and national sovereignty. They vociferously demanded a reversal of the anti-worker, anti-people policies being pursued by the Congress led UPA II government.


Delhi wore a colourful look as the workers, large number of them sporting red caps, colourful aprons with the demands written on them, red sarees, kurtas and T-shirts, the colourful banners with the names of different unions in different languages marched on its streets. Workers carrying the tricolour flags marched alongside those with red flags, shouting slogans in different languages. Songs and other traditional cultural forms accompanied slogans.


The workers started arriving in Delhi from February 20 itself. What started as small streams, coming in batches of a few hundreds on the morning of February 20, turned into huge sea of workers packing the broad streets of Delhi and spilling into the nearby lanes and by lanes.


Keeping in view the difficulty in accommodating so many lakhs of workers at a single point, the central trade unions decided different places for their workers to collect. While the CITU and AITUC arranged camps in Ramlila maidan for a part of their contingents which arrived before February 23, the contingents of INTUC, HMS, insurance employees, bank employees etc gathered at different places in the city. All the different contingents then proceeded to Ramlila maidan from where the ‘March to Parliament’ started. Sanjeeva Reddy, president of the INTUC, A K Padmanabhan, president and Tapan Sen, general secretary of the CITU, Gurudas Dasgupta, general secretary of the AITUC, Umraomal Purohit, general secretary of the HMS and other leaders of the central trade unions led the march. Flotilla of a hundred representatives of each organisation marched one after another in the forefront.


By the time the main procession reached Parliament Street, thousands of workers who could not reach the starting point of the procession, almost filled up the entire area. The tail end of the procession could not even leave the Ramlila maidan.


The massive participation of the workers in the ‘March to Parliament’ reflects the anger of the working class and the people towards the insensitivity of the UPA II government at the plight of the common people. As one old trade union activist commented, the workers were already simmering with discontent at the government policies and the call of the central trade unions gave them the opportunity to express their anger. Many workers who were not members of any trade union welcomed the CITU when it approached them with the message of the ‘March’ and came to Delhi.


The administration in several states like Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, and Uttar Pradesh etc tried to create problems. The government issued circulars and the Child Development Project Officers (CDPOs) and supervisors threatened the anganwadi employees of removal from service if they participated in the rally.


The weather in Delhi too created difficulties. The Ramlila maidan was filled with puddles of water due to the sudden rain and thunderstorm in Delhi a few days before, just as the tents were being erected for the camp. Even as the water was pumped out, the land was filled and work started again, it rained heavily turning the entire maidan into a big pool of water. The camp could ultimately be erected and made ready for the workers just on time, when the workers started flooding the tents.  


The ‘March to Parliament’ turned into a big rally of workers in front of the Parliament Street Police Station where the police erected barricades and stopped the workers from proceeding further. A presidium comprising representatives of all the participating central trade unions conducted the proceedings. M K Pandhe and Mohd Amin, senior leaders of the CITU were also present on the dais.


Addressing the gathering, Sanjeeva Reddy, president of the INTUC held the government policies responsible for the deteriorating conditions of the workers and the common people. He strongly criticised the government and the prime minister for not taking any positive actions on the five point charter of demands despite the several meetings with the trade union leaders. Asserting that INTUC will continue to be part of the joint trade union movement, he emphasised the need to strengthen the unity.


Tapan Sen congratulated the workers for the massive participation, despite many difficulties and said that the present attacks on the working and living conditions of the workers were part of the neo liberal policies of which the prime minister was an ardent advocate. He castigated the UPA II government for leading the country to disaster by pursuing these policies which have been proved to enrich the rich by looting the poor. He said that the government was taking measures that actually lead to increase in the prices and benefited the traders and speculators. While lakhs or crores of rupees of public money was being looted, the government was not ready to pay minimum wages and social security benefits to the anganwadi employees, ASHAs etc. He appealed to all the workers irrespective of their affiliations to unite at the factory and enterprise level to push back these policies. He called upon the working class to be ready to intensify the struggle if the government continues to act deaf to their just demands.


The prelude to the February 23 ‘March to Parliament’ was set by several rallies and dharnas held at Jantar Mantar near parliament on February 22. Hundreds of fishers from all over the country under the banner of All India Fishers and Fisheries Workers’ Federation (AIFFWF) organised a dharna on their demands. S Ramachandra Pillai, president of the AIKS inaugurated the dharna. Along with the leaders of AIFFWF, Sitaram Yechury, Brinda Karat and Mohammed Amin, members of parliament, AK Padmanabhan and Tapan Sen, president and general secretary of the CITU and several MPs addressed the gathering. The Bhopal Gas victims, defence employees, members of Dakshin Railway Employees’ Union affiliated to the CITU, LIC agents etc organised separate rallies and dharnas on their demands.


On February 24, the next day of the mammoth ‘March’, more than twenty five thousand anganwadi employees under the banner of ‘Samyukta Morcha of Anganwadi employees’ Federations’ – a joint platform of anganwadi employees federations affiliated to AITUC, CITU, HMS and INTUC, held a dharna near parliament on their demands. Several other organisations too held rallies and dharnas.


The February 23 ‘March to Parliament’ has increased several times the workers’ determination to fight back the policies that were the real cause for their ever increasing exploitation. UPA II government, better beware! The workers will convert the ‘Vijay Chowk’ into a ‘Tahrir Square’ if the government continues with the policies that safeguard the interests of a few US dollar billionaires at the cost of the aam admi.