People's Democracy

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


No. 10

March 10, 2013




Strike A Big Success Despite Betrayal 


P R Krishnan


WITH the exception of the transport sector, the all-India general strike of February 20 and 21 elicited massive response from the working class and other toiling sections in Maharashtra. The industrial, banking, insurance and other financial sectors were paralysed on both the days of the general strike. Port and dock workers, those in public sector industries like oil, gas and petroleum, naval dockyard workers and even seamen fully participated in the strike, bringing their respective sectors to a standstill. The ship building Mazgaon Dock Ltd did not work because an overwhelming majority of workers struck work. Stock exchange and foreign exchange transactions were thrown out of gear due to the total strike in the RBI, SBI and nationalised banks. The state and central government offices remained deserted. Post offices and telecommunication centres remained closed.


Lakhs of unorganised workers joined the strike and all sections of workers, peasants and agricultural labourers came out into the roads in huge numbers all over the state. An indefinite strike of over 40,000 powerloom workers of Ichalkaranji in Kolhapur district under the joint leadership of 10 organisations completed one month on February 21. Other sections of unorganised workers on strike included beedi workers, construction workers, sugarcane cutters, Anganwadi, ASHA and mid-day meal scheme workers, gram rojgar sevaks, agricultural workers, hawkers and so on.


All central trade unions (with one glaring exception that we will see later) and the various unions and federations of public sector employees, banks, insurance etc, worked hard for the success of the strike. The Shiv Sena led unions also participated in the strike in Mumbai and its environs.


The largest action of this strike took place at Solapur on February 21, when over 75,000 workers held a massive rally. The lion’s share of the participating workers belonged to the CITU, and the rally was addressed by CITU state president Narsayya Adam, CITU state secretary M H Shaikh, CITU state council member Venkatesh Kongari, AITUC leader Tanaji Thombre and state government employees’ leader Ashok Indapure.


In Mumbai, the Trade Unions Joint Action Committee (TUJAC) organised a huge long march, involving 25,000-strong workers, from Byculla in Central Mumbai to Azad Maidan in South Mumbai on February 18. It was addressed among others by Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray, SS leaders Manohar Joshi and Suryakant Mahadik, Dr Shanti Patel (Port and Dock Workers), K L Bajaj and Dr Vivek Monteiro (CITU), R G Karnik (state government employees), Mohan Sharma and A D Golandaz (AITUC), Suryakant Bagal (HMS), Deoraj Singh (INTUC), Anil Dhumne and Anna Desai (BMS), M A Patil and Uday Bhat (SSS), Dr Kishore Theckedath (college teachers), Sharad Nanal (insurance employees) and Vishwas Hutgi (bank employees).


In Nashik, a 20,000-strong joint rally was held and it was addressed by CITU state general secretary Dr D L Karad, Sudhir Sonarikar (state government employees), Rambhau Jagtap (JAC), Raju Desale (AITUC), Pravin Patil and others. In the rural areas of Nashik district, over 22,000 peasants belonging to the All India Kisan Sabha, led by its state president J P Gavit and state general secretary Kisan Gujar, blocked highways and main roads in eight tehsils for hours together, bringing all traffic to a halt.


In Thane district, over 30,000 people owing allegiance to the AIKS, CITU, AIDWA and DYFI blocked all highways in seven tehsils for hours, bringing the rural areas of the district to a halt. At Talasari, under the leadership of Rajaram Ozare, MLA, Lahanu Kom, ex-MP, Mariam Dhawale and Barkya Mangat, over 10,000 people blocked the Mumbai-Delhi national highway for over three hours.


In Ahmednagar district, where the AIKS and CITU have developed speedily and well in recent years, a 10,000-strong rally of workers and peasants from all the 14 tehsils of the district was held, and it was addressed by AIKS CKC member Dr Ashok Dhawale and AIKS state joint secretary Dr Ajit Nawale.


Other districts where large rallies and road blockades were held were Kolhapur, Sangli, Satara, Pune, Mumbai, Raigad, Nandurbar, Dhule, Jalgaon, Nanded, Parbhani, Aurangabad, Jalna, Beed, Hingoli, Latur, Usmanabad, Nagpur, Wardha, Amravati, Buldana, Chandrapur, Gadchiroli and Yavatmal.


The CPI(M)’s Maharashtra state committee meeting held on February 24, and the CITU and AIKS state level meetings held on February 25, reviewed the excellent response to the all-India strike call. They congratulated the people of Maharashtra for making this strike an unprecedented success. From the review, it emerged that out of the roughly five lakh people who actually came out on the streets in Maharashtra in demonstrations, rallies and road blockades on February 20-21, over 2.05 lakh people owed their allegiance to the class and mass organisations led by the CPI(M). This is a record, since the previous highest figure of our mobilisation was 1.75 lakh on September 29, 2005.


However, it must be placed on record that Sharad Rao, the national president of the Hind Mazdoor Sabha (HMS) and now an NCP leader, played the notorious role of a strike-breaker in this massive countrywide action. After having been in the presidium of the September 4 all-India trade union convention in Delhi that gave the call for the two-day strike, Sharad Rao and his unions in Mumbai backed out at the last minute. This adversely affected the participation of the transport sector in this strike, and the BEST buses, auto rickshaws, taxis and state transport buses were on the roads. The Trade Union Joint Action Committee (TUJAC), which met in Mumbai on February 20, denounced this disgraceful strike-breaking action of Sharad Rao and his unions.


It must also be stated that the Shiv Sena-led unions had agreed, along with all other unions, to convert the February 20 into a Maharashtra Bandh and to continue the strike on February 21. However, it is significant to note that the Shiv Sena made no efforts for a Maharashtra Bandh on the first day.