Ten central trade unions have been protesting for the past three days outside Parliament in New Delhi against the Central government’s “anti-worker” policies. The Joint Platform of Central Trade Unions, which represents workers and employees from several sectors, had called for the agitation.
“The federations have decided to stage three days’ mass dharna before Parliament against the anti-worker, anti-people and anti-national policies of the Central government from November 9 to 11,” it said in a statement.
The trade unions said they were agitating as the “policies of the government at the Centre are inflicting horrific miseries and hardship on crores of common people from every walk of life”. They also said the government has not paid attention to a 12-point charter of demands asking for minimum wages, social security and government workers’ status and its benefits.
The unions highlighted how demonetisation had affected the wages of workers and caused several industries to shut down. Workers also criticised the “hastily implemented” Goods and Services Tax, which they said had led to price rise.
Several of the protesting workers are employed with government schemes such as Asha and the midday meal schemes, said Kavita Krishnan, a member of the Communist Party of India (Marxist–Leninist). “Denied recognition as government employees, denied wages in spite of huge work burden, they only get small token incentive/honorarium pay. Main demand – recognition as government employees,” she said on Twitter.
On labour reforms, the statement said, “To promote ‘ease of doing business’, the government has embarked on arrogant pro-employer amendments of all labour laws aimed at imposing conditions of slavery on the working people.”
The ten central trade unions participating in the protests are the Indian National Trade Union Congress; All India Trade Union Congress; Hind Mazdoor Sabha; Centre of Indian Trade Unions; All India United Trade Union Centre; Trade Union Coordination Centre; Self Employed Women’s Association; All India Central Council of Trade Unions; United Trade Union Congress; and the Labour Progressive Federation.
On Saturday, the last day of the protests, prominent academics, scientists, artists and writers wrote in support of workers.
“We strongly urge Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his government to immediately pay attention to the demands raised by workers of the country represented by 10 central trade unions and several all India federations of workers and employees,” the letter read.
Among the signatories are writers Krishna Sobti and Githa Hariharan, filmmaker Rahul Roy, Jawaharlal Nehru University Professor Ayesha Kidwai and Safai Karmachari Andolan Founder Bezwada Wilson.
The workers have been agitating for several years for better wages and social security, a universal public distribution system, an end to contract work, controlling price rise and an end to various policies hostile to people’s interests, such as privatisation of public sector units and dilution of labour laws. “Their continued neglect and marginalisation, even as big industrialists and foreign capital receive largesse from your government is a betrayal of the public mandate given to you,” the letter read.