People's Democracy

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


Vol. XXXVIII

No. 05

February 02, 2014

 

PUNJAB

 

CITU Union Stages Five-Day Dharna in Ludhiana

 

Raghunath Singh

 

FROM January 20 to 24, the Lal Jhanda Punjab Bhatha Mazdoor Union staged a five-day dharna in front of the district commissionerís office at Ludhiana. The action received support not only from the CITU but from many other unions, like those of the MGNREGA workers, mid-day meal workers, Reta workers, Bharat Nirman workers and others, who took part in this protest programme of the brick kiln workers. Apart from the burning issues facing them, the workers also raised the issue of scarcity of sand and gravel etc, which has been created by the sand mafia being patronised by government of Parkash Singh Badal and his family members. This situation has resulted in a sky rocketing of the prices of sand, earth and gravel and is thus adversely affecting the bricks manufacturing industry, construction industry and the trades linked with construction activities. This has hit the employment situation too and led to a sharp lowering of wage rates etc.

 

The other burning issues which the protestors raised were about implementation of the minimum wages, ensured implementation of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), punishment to those responsible for lapses regarding unused money to the extent of Rs 67 crore that was earmarked for the MNREGA programme, withdrawal of the administered increase in the cost of LPG cylinders which cumulates to Rs 900 crore, etc.

 

The response was immense. Even a large section of brick kiln owners, truck operators and traders supported the protest action physically and morally, and this added to the CITUís prestige as a champion of struggles. In fact, the action highlighted the discontentment prevailing among the working people in the state.

 

Over the said five days, about five thousand workers and other people participated in the dharna, demonstration and rallies. About 1,000 people remained round the clock on the spot of the protest action where a langar (community kitchen) provided food three times a day. The ration was provided through mass collection of items from various villages, while 500 volunteers, specially the mid-day meal women workers, took turns to cook the food.

 

All the activists of the Lal Jhanda Punjab Bhatha Mazdoor Union and other unions, along with the district CITU leaders, remained active for the success of this 120 hours continuous protest action, despite heavy rain and cold weather.

 

Chander Shekhar, vice president of the CITU state committee, inaugurated the protest on the first day whereas state general secretary Raghunath Singh was the main speaker on the concluding day i.e. on January 24. In his concluding address Raghunath Singh congratulated the district committee of the CITU and leadership of the Lal Jhanda Punjab Bhatha Mazdoor Union for organising this five day long dharna in Ludhiana. He said the CITU would further widen and strengthen the agitation all over the state.

 

The deputy commissioner of district Ludhiana, while addressing the protestors on January 24, assured to stop the menace of police and mining officials and to arrange a meeting of CITU leaders on this issue with the chief minister of Punjab. Prominent district level leaders of the CPI, Peoples Party of Punjab (PPP) and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) also extended their solidarity and support to this protest struggle.

         

AGITATION ON

LOCAL DEMANDS

Earlier, on January 17, a big rally was organised at Raikot, at the call of the CITUís Ludhiana district committee, to lodge protest against the anti-people and anti-national economic policies of the central and state governments. The rally was attended by the MGNREGA workers, brick kiln workers, construction workers, ASHA, mid-day meal and Anganwari workers and helpers. The protestors expressed their opposition to allowing FDI in multi-brand retail market, illegal contract labour system and outsourcing, black marketing of sand and gravel, violation of labour laws, heavy increase in the prices of petrol, diesel and cooking gas, and against the deteriorating law and order situation in Punjab.

 

Over two thousand workers from the CITU affiliated unions took part in the rally which was addressed by Jatinder Pal Singh (district president CITU), Tarsem Jodhan (general secretary, Lal Jhanda Punjab Bhatha Mazdoor Union), Mrs Subhash Rani (president) and Mrs Surjeet Kaur (general secretary, Anganwari Mulajam Union Punjab), Amarnath Koomkalan (general secretary, Lal Jhanda FCI Workers and Palledars Union), Daljeet Kumar Gora (vice president, district CITU), Hanuman Parsad Dubey (joint secretary, district CITU), Parkash Singh Hissowal (leader of the MGNREGA workers), Parkash Singh Vermi (district president, AIAWU), Mukhtiar Singh (local leader of Punjab Kisan Sabha), Santokh Singh (tehsil secretary of the CPI(M) in Raikot), by local CITU leaders like Rulda Singh Ramesh Kumar, Chamkaur Singh Noorpur, Sukhchain Singh Harnaik Singh, Rajwant Singh, and by Amarjeet Kaur (local leader of Anganwari Mulajam Union Punjab).

 

The speakers demanded stop to blackmarketing of sand and gravel, implementation of labour laws, regularisation of the services of scheme workers and their coverage under the Minimum Wages Act 1948), ensured social security for them, implementation of  the notification regarding revision in the minimum wages (which was issued by the principal labour secretary R C Nayyar on November 15, 2012) with retrospective effect, and abolition of the illegal contract labour system from all government and semi-government departments as well as from industrial units in both public and private sectors. The rally also demanded appointment of regular employees to all regular posts which have been lying vacant for years together, withdrawal of false police cases registered against CITU activists and those of other trade unions, implementation of the MGNREGA in letter and spirit, ensuring that the wages to the MGNREGA workers are at par with those of agriculture workers in Punjab, and ensured unemployment allowance for the MGNREGA workers if work is not provided to them on demand.

 

Through a separate resolution the rally supported the peopleís agitation against the property tax and various other corruption cases and against the highhandedness of the Akali-BJP government of Punjab. The speakers also demanded a CBI inquiry into the allegation of involvement of Bikramjit Singh Majithia, a cabinet minister of the Akali-BJP government and a close relative of Badal family, in a drug racket case. After the rally, a militant procession was taken out in Raikot town.