People's Democracy

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


No. 03

January 20, 2013




Workers Stage Jail Bharo Action


Ramesh Chand


ON December 19, 2012, the Jammu & Kashmir state committee of the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) organised a Jail Bharo action of workers of various affiliated unions at Jammu. These included ASHA and Anganwadi workers, Mid-day Meal workers, Railway Loading & Unloading Union, Bharatiya Coal Khan Majdoor Union, Construction of Four Lanes Road Workers Unions, and Pahari Railway Workers, Hydro Power Project Workers Unions, among others.


The action took place at the joint call of all the central trade unions for a Jail Bharo agitation and march to parliament in order to press for the ten points charter of demands. The latter include curb on price rise, universalisation of public distribution system, job protection, enforcement of labour laws, social security for unorganised workers, stop to disinvestment in PSUs, minimum wages, pension for all, equal wages and benefits to the contract workers, ensured right to organisation and collective bargaining, removal of ceiling of bonus, ESI and gratuity, compulsory registration of trade unions and ratification of ILO conventions 87 and 98. CITU state president M Y Tarigami, MLA, led the rally.


Holding red flags and placards in their hands, the workers chanted slogans in support of their demands. The procession started from the Vikram Chowk and, after passing through the Dogra Chowk, Jewel Chowk, Gumat Bazaar, City Chowk and Raghunath Bazaar, the participants courted arrests at Indira Chowk. While addressing their rally, Tarigami said the CITU has played a pioneering role in opposing the neo-liberal policies, and discontent about these policies has grown over the last two decades. The untiring efforts of the CITU to develop a united movement against the anti-people and anti-workers policies have borne fruit as the entire trade union movement of the country has come together on a single platform to fight for reversal of the anti-worker and anti-people policies.


Tarigami said resistance to the neo-liberal policies is widespread not only in our country but in all the countries wherever they have been implemented, including the advanced capitalist countries. He demanded that the government should curb the price rise, universalises the public distribution system and impose complete ban on speculation and futures trading in commodity market to contain the rising prices. He said that more than 93 per cent of the country’s workforce is in the unorganised sector who are outside the purview of most of the labour laws and do not have any protection in respect of working hours, minimum wages, social security and job security despite contributing around 65 per cent to the country’s GDP. He demanded a complete halt to disinvestment of shares in state and central PSUs, and debunked the government’s argument that disinvestment is meant for people’s ownership, including employees’ ownership, and for garnering resources for social sector welfare and for modernisation of public sector companies. Tarigami said a grave conspiracy is afoot to drastically dilute the existing pensionary rights of the government employees and others; these pensionary benefits are being sought to be dismantled and replaced by a new pension scheme which would make the defined pension benefit for the retiring employees totally uncertain and market dependent, despite making them pay 10 per cent of their wages every month for the pension fund. The Pension Fund Development & Regulatory Authority Bill has already been introduced in parliament to legitimise such a retrograde anti-worker exercise. In this case workers would be made to pay for their pension fund which will be used in the stock market for speculation through various fund managers.


While addressing the gathering, senior CITU leader Sham Prasad Kesar demanded strict enforcement of labour laws and punitive measures for their violations. He said that in a majority of workplaces, minimum wages are not paid; basic social security benefits are denied. In fact, 90 per cent of the disputes and conflicts going on in different workplaces in the country relate to non-implementation of the labour laws. He further demanded that minimum wages must not be less than Rs 10000, and that the scheme workers, e.g., ASHA and Anganwari workers etc, must be made regular employees.


State CITU general secretary Om Parkash expressed concern over the widespread contractisation and casualisation of work in most of the workplaces. These contract workers are deprived of virtually all the statutory benefits, and their employment is always under threat. This has given rise to a dangerous discrimination as under the same roof in a establishment contract workers are doing the same work as the regular workers but are getting hardly one sixth of the remuneration the regular workers are getting. This can in no way be tolerated. He demanded equal wages for contract workers and regular workers for the same kind of work.


Others who spoke on this occasion included Ramesh Chand (state CITU joint secretary), Sunita Bhagat (state general secretary, ASHA Workers Union), Kailash Chander (general secretary, Railway Loading and Unloading Workers Union), Baba Ram, Construction Workers Union, etc.