By Devika Kohli:
With the Modi government completing one year in office, most workers have little reason to celebrate. The Prime Minister may be visiting several countries across the globe signing trade agreements, but the bitter truth is that back home not once was the question of labor or the 10 point charter of demands that the 11 central trade unions have been pushing for since 2009 brought up. The key demands of this charter are implementation of labor laws, abolition of contractual workforce, addressing price rise, and increased social safety measures. The prevalent sentiment among the labor of the country seems to be, as echoed by Mr. Arjun Dev Nagpal, Hind Mazdoor Sabha (HMS) Secretary in a telephonic conversation, that “the current government is pro-corporate and anti-labor, it is changing labor laws without our consultation”.
The RSS affiliated BMS to go on strike as well
In what could be rather embarrassing for the current government, the RSS affiliated Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS) has also agreed to join the all India strike to protest against the labor reforms which intend to make it easier for the industries to operate in India. In a telephonic conversation, Mr. Virjesh Upadhyay, General Secretary of BMS, said that “the 10 point charter was first raised in 2009, and in 2013 a two day strike also took place. Dr. Manmohan Singh had addressed this issue during the Indian Labor Conference. However, the government got changed, new government took over, and in this one year nothing has happened. No initiative has been taken.” When questioned why the labor was so dissatisfied with the NDA government he added, “This government and its top leaders had assured the public that there will be change. However, it has addressed only certain sections of the society.”
‘Acche Din’ for the workers?
Mrs Amarjeet Kaur of All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC) added that, “The previous government (UPA) had accepted that our demands were genuine. With the change of government we were expecting that the dialogue with trade unions would continue but the present government (BJP led UPA) started amending laws against labor interest. PMO instructed all state governments to follow the Rajasthan model (Even before the BJP-led NDA came to power in the center, the BJP government in Rajasthan made amendments to labor laws)”. This, Mrs. Kaur added, “is negating our rights which the workers have won from last seven decades beginning from the British era. This government is taking retrograde steps favoring the interests of not only Indian employers but also multinational corporations. In the name of inviting foreign investment, it is trying to exclude maximum workers from labor law protection. It is bringing changes in trade union act and weakening the process of collective bargaining. Not just that, instead of supporting the social security schemes and providing finances, it has started putting amendment in our EPF. Now Madhya Pradesh government of BJP has even stated the trade unions are a nuisance. This government has been continuously trying to curtail the rights of the workers.” Under such circumstances, the workers had no choice but to take direct action i.e. go for a nationwide strike on 2nd September.
Injustice to workers, Dilution of labor laws
If the workers’ demands are not met, Mr. Nagpal, secretary HMS, says that they will change their strategy while Mrs. Kaur says they may have to go on a strike for many days. The government is trying to dilute the labor laws and this works against the interest of the workers. The truth is that in the name of economic advancement it is the large corporates which are benefitting, for instance through programs like ‘Make in India’, the trade unions are increasingly being regarded as a menace because the management of the corporates wish to maximize profit. It is times like these that highlight the need for trade unions, to not only fight for the interests of the workers but also to protest against such unjust policies.