People's Democracy

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


No. 06

February 10, 2013


CITU Conference Enthuses Workers

V J K Nair

THE Karnataka unit of the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) held its 12th state conference at Sirsi in Uttara Kannada district from January 27 to 29, 2013. This place, Sirsi, is only a few km away from Banavasi which was the capital of the Kadamba dynasty, the first kingdom in Karnataka, and the cradle of Kannada literature. It was this place that gave birth to Pampa Mahakavya (Ramayana) with the unique feature that its hero is Arjuna. Located in the midst of the Sahyadri ranges, the waterfall at Sirsi gives rise to Varada, a tributary of the Tungabhadra river. On the right of this river, Tungabhadra, lies Hampi, capital of the Vijayanagar empire and now a world heritage site.

It was after a gap of 24 years that a CITU state conference was held in the northern part of Karnataka. Earlier, its fifth conference was held at Hubli in 1989, the last conference attended by late Comrade B T Ranadive, and one which left an indelible mark on the working class movement in Karnataka, marked by a series of struggles that shook the Hubli and Dharwar districts. Earlier, in 1983, the third CITU state conference, held at Harihar, was attended by late Comrades Jyoti Basu and BTR. Now, three decades after the Harihar conference, the Sirsi conference bore the marks of decades of struggle and showed the distinct change the CITU had undergone in this period.


On January 27, a large number of people attended the opening rally of the CITU state conference. It was addressed, among others, by Tapan Sen, general secretary of the CITU.
The movement of the CITU has undergone a radical change in the state in this period. With the implementation of schemes like the ICDS, mid-day meal scheme, Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, health care schemes etc, a large number of informal workers --- being paid ‘honorarium’ in place of wages or salaries --- have come up side by side the organised working class. Women form a substantial chunk of these workers. Yet this informalisation has failed to curb the strength of the working class movement and the CITU has been able to attract a good part of these workers. While the Karnataka state unit of the CITU had a membership of less than half a lakh in the pre-liberalisation period, it has increased five-fold and now stands at 2,30,000 mark. No wonder the Sirsi conference, full of enthusiasm, has resolved to double the membership by the time of the next conference.

The Sirsi conference saw the presence of a large number of spirited and dedicated women, particularly from the Anganwadi, mid-day meal scheme, ASHA etc, as also the panchayat workers, who have helped to take the CITU to every panchayat. However, a segment of organised workers from the large factory of West Coast Paper Mills at Dandeli also made their presence felt here. The contribution of women volunteers and activists was visible at every stage --- in the mass rally, in maintaining discipline in the way they toiled to prepare unforgettable tasty food for the delegates and others, and in numerous other activities from reception to farewell.

The conference also chalked out a plan for future. Immediately after the conference, members were to organise propaganda campaigns; conduct jathas at the local, taluk and other levels; form coordination committees of the CITU unions at the taluk and down to the panchayat level; organise the activists into horata samithis; take up issues at the panchayat level; and also prepare for success of the all-India strike on February 20-21. Lakhs of pamphlets and thousands of posters will be printed, and tens of thousands of volunteers would work to make the two days’ strike a grand success in the state.


The Sirsi conference also called for actions and a sustained campaign to get realised the need based minimum wages for all workers. The resolution on the minimum wages issue was worked out in detail and explained to the delegates.

The resolution on the minimum wages pointed out that the 44th Indian Labour Conference (ILC) held in New Delhi in February 2012 --- and attended by representatives of the government, managements and labour --- had arrived at a consensus that minimum wages should be as decided by the 15th Indian Labour Conference and further enhanced by the Supreme Court in the Raptakos Case. This marks an addition of 25 per cent to the recommendations made by the 15th ILC in 1957.

The January 16, 2013 meeting of the all-India secretariat of the CITU held at Kolkata also clarified that all the trade unions’ common demand of a minimum wage of Rs 10,000, is only tentative, i.e. until we can achieve the 15 ILC + 25 per cent level. The CITU’s Karnataka state unit had earlier made its position known through two booklets on the minimum wage issue in Karnataka. The first booklet was published in 1993 and then its updated version in February 2009.

Working on the basis of recommendations of the 15th ILC, as it was updated by the 44th ILC, the CITU state committee found that the minimum wage for unskilled labour --- at 4624 points of the consumer price index (CPI) should be Rs 13,000. In the same manner, it must be Rs 14,300 for semiskilled labour, Rs 15,600 for skilled labour and Rs 19,500 for highly skilled labour.
However, pending the realisation of the 15th ILC + 25 per cent level, the trade unions are demanding Rs 10,000, 11,000, 12,000 and 15,000 for the unskilled, semiskilled, skilled and highly skilled categories respectively.

It is clear that in Karnataka the average wage of Rs 5,000 per month for the unskilled labour is still far away from the wage they should be getting in order to make the two ends meet. It is thus that the state CITU has decided to fight for Rs 10,000 for unskilled labour in the immediate perspective and for Rs 13,000 in the longer run. It has also decided to fight for cent per cent neutralisation.
The recent state conference of the CITU directed the newly elected leadership to work out a comprehensive plan for struggle, and for education and preparation of the working class in the state.


Another resolution of the conference demanded reopening of the Bharat gold mines and Kolar gold fields. It will be noted that the Bharat Gold Mines in Kolar, the only gold mines in India, were closed down by the NDA government 12 years ago. The CITU, which is in the forefront opposing the government’s policy of privatisation, has been fighting for safeguarding the interests of people of Kolar gold fields and the state and demanding their reopening. At one point the Karnataka legislative assembly too had passed a resolution demanding the reopening of the closed-down gold mines.
In 2010, Justice Shylendra Kumar of the High Court of Karnataka pronounced his considered judgement on the issue, directing that the Bharat Gold Mines be reopened and run as a government undertaking. He also wrote in the judgement that national wealth was about to be looted by foreign financial interests and their local agents. He came down heavily on the government of India for not having lifted a little finger while such a loot is being planned.

However, the government of India close to back the special leave petitions filed in the Supreme Court in the name of some pliant trade unions, opposing the said judgement. While it is obvious that these unions cannot mobilise even a hundred rupees, they have got someone to dole out millions of rupees to engage corporate lawyers to challenge Justice Shylendra Kumar’s judgement in the Supreme Court of India. It is also known that a Karnataka minister, Muniyappa, is an agent of the companies that are interested in looting the wealth of the Kolar gold fields. The CITU alone came forward to oppose these special leave petitions and is mobilising scarce resources to fight this case.

Another disturbing point is that the nuclear waste of Kudamgulam is proposed to be dumped in the Kolar gold fields as the GOI claims that these are the disused mines. The CITU has opposed this proposal, filed an impleading application in this case and is seeking the Supreme Court’s intervention to prevent nuclear waste being deposited in the Kolar gold mines.
The twelfth state conference of the CITU at Sirsi demanded that the government of India must reopen these mines, give immediate relief to the workers, abandon the proposals to dump nuclear waste in these mines, and employ the children of the retired employees.

The CITU also demanded that the state government of Karnataka must also raise its voice in favour of this reopening, provide relief to the concerned workers, improve the sanitary conditions in the workers’ colonies to make them habitable for human beings and repair the roads, etc.

The call of the conference on the issue stirred the delegates who on the spot raised 40,000 rupees in solidarity with the battle the CITU alone is waging --- at the ground and in the Supreme Court.
The conference adopted several other resolutions including one demanding vigorous steps for the development of Uttara Kannada district.

CITU president A K Padmanabhan sat through the entire delegates session and guided the proceedings of the conference that elected a new state committee of 70 members. The latter then elected a team of 35 office bearers with V J K Nair as president. The conference also elected 76 delegates to the all-India conference of the CITU that is to take place at Kannur.