Millions of Workers and students join hands in General strike against Modi govt policies

The key demands included an increase in minimum wage, social security , control the increasing unemployment and remove anti labour laws.

general strike
General strike Bharat Bandh 2020

If you think people are on the streets in India to protest against the citizenship amendment act, you are sorely mistaken.

According to the reports, approximately, 25 crore Indians went on strike on 8th January 2020 to protest against the Modi government anti-people, anti-worker policies and the politics of hate.

The protestors included workers from industries, transport sector, banks, government offices, scheme workers, farmers and rural labourers who turned up in great numbers to the general strike. Besides this, there were workers from the private sector such as IT sectors to the workers from small manufacturing units such as textile and garments. Many farmer organisations and student organisation joined the protest in various parts of the nation.

Among the key demands of the organisations were scrapping of proposed labour reforms. Others include a hike in the minimum wage to Rs 21,000-Rs 24,000 per month; repealing the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA), National Register of Citizens (NRC) and National Population Register (NPR), and halting the privatisation of public sector undertakings.

The CITU has a 12-point charter of demands they have put to the government. The demands include:

  • Urgent measures to contain price rises through a universalized public distribution system and banning of speculative trading on the commodities market.
  • A job generation scheme to combat India’s unemployment problem.
  • Stricter enforcement of all basic labor laws.
  • Universal social security.
  • A minimum wage of at least 15,000 Rupees (≈ $210) per month.
  • A guaranteed pension for the entire working-age population.
  • Equal pay for equal work.
  • The stoppage of pro-employer, anti-labor laws.
  • The end to foreign direct investment in key industries like rail, defense and finance.

Over 7.3 crore people, mostly youth, are currently unemployed, according to the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy estimates. This is the largest army of jobless people India has ever seen. The unemployment rate stood at 7.7% in December 2019, while in urban areas, it was even higher at a staggering 8.9%.

In north India, fighting the cold weather, thousands of activists of all trade unions, except the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh-affiliated Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh, supporters of several independent federations, the Left parties workers, student organisations and others, took to the streets against the central government’s anti-worker policies.

In Bangalore Peenya and Jalahalli Circle CITU and a joint committee of trade unions organised a protest rally. Many trade unions and Anganwadi workers staged a protest at near Freedom Park.

Thousands of activists and workers blocked Dak Bungalow square in the heart of Patna for several hours. Police lathi-charged them and arrested half a dozen of them. Thousands of workers in Delhi NCR put down their tools on Wednesday as part of the nationwide general strike. Many teachers and staff from the Delhi University Teachers University also joined the strike.

 

strike

There were rail roko protest in many places in Punjab, and tamilnadu. Members of the Centre of Indian Trade Union (CITU) blocked the Trivandrum Express during the nationwide ‘Bharat Bandh’, in Guwahati.
In rural areas, protests and traffic stoppages were seen in nearly 480 districts of the country as lakhs of farmers and agricultural workers, along with non-farm rural workers came out in protest, at the call of AIKSCC, an umbrella platform of over 175 organisations.

“The Union government is rushing up the process of privatisation and eyeing the railways. The government could not manage the economy of the country and now they want to sell railways to private parties” said RC Sharma, President of WREU and General Secretary of AIRF. “This government has been trying to sell land belonging to Railways at prime locations to industrialists,” added Sharma.

Students in over 60 universities and institutions, and their affiliated colleges, too, observed a strike with thousands joining protest marches after boycotting classes. But students from Jadavpur University demonstrated some interesting way to protest, where they played chess on the streets outside of JNU in Kolkata blocking the roads.

Even after the orders from the government warning to the workers from public sector employees  not to attend the strike, and attend work. This seemed to fail when joint platform of 175 farmers and agricultural workers organisations also extended support and called for a simultaneous rural strike.

“About 1.5 million power sector employees and engineers, including 25,000 in UP, are on the boycott/strike which is a success,” Chairman of All India Power Engineers Federation (AIPEF), Shailendra Dubey told PTI.

Power sector employees are protesting against the Centre’s proposed amendments to the Electricity Act as well as other privatisation policies of the government, which they say are against the interest of the consumers and employees.

The workers of Shipping Corporation of India from Mumbai also joined the all India strike against the Modi government. BSNL is one of the organisations most heavily affected by the Modi government’s pro-corporate policies. BSNL employees in Shillong, Meghalaya join the national strike. Workers in BSNL from Bengaluru,Mumbai, and Lucknow also joined the strike. About 40,000 employees of Maha Gujarat Bank Employee Association participated in the strike across the state. The strike also reached to the Reserve Bank of India in Kolkata when these banners were displayed outside the bank.

At many places, anti-CAA protesters also joined in the workers strike in solidarity with each other and also since the student and workers are facing similar issues with rampant unemployment and precarious work conditions.

This is the fourth country-wide strike by workers during Modi’s regime, the earlier three being – September 2, 2015; September 2, 2016, and the two-day strike on January 8-9, 2019. Students in universities have been fighting against fee hikes, throttling of democracy and, of late, against police atrocities. They have also joined or led protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act/National Population Register/National Register of Citizens for the past month. Therefore, today’s nationwide protest clearly depicts the convergence of people from all the streams in India to hold the promise of even wider struggles in the upcoming days.

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