In large measure, the success of ultra-nationalist jingoism is in its keeping people strangled within its terms, dictating the issues and controlling the political discourse. Post the Pulwama incident, the ruling regime and the opposition parties, aided and abetted by the mainstream media, has carefully hijacked the political discourse. It has turned the conversation away from pressing issues faced by the people, to communal polarization with a militaristic machismo. This demagogy of the ruling classes can be encountered by centering the very basic issues of working people which they want to suppress. The workers rally in Delhi called by MASA (Mazdoor Adhikar Sangharsh Abhiyan), was a step in that direction. A GroundXero report.
Today, on 3 March 2019, several thousands of workers from many states across the country, from various sectors (organized, unorganized, rural, service, etc) took out a rally in Delhi from Ramlila Maidan, and marched to Sansad Marg, protesting neoliberal attacks on working people by the fascist ruling forces, amidst its current war hysteria.The rally was to protest and resist the increasing neoliberal attacks on working class rights, falling real wages, intensifying division of workers on various lines, state repression and criminalization of labour, and loot of common resources.
The rally was called by MASA (Mazdoor Adhikar Sangharsh Abhiyan), a broad coalition of working class forces from across the country, grounded in various historical and ongoing struggles, which have come together over the past 3 years on a 17-point Charter of Demands. The main demands of the workers are :
* Abolish the Contract System! Ensure Permanent Secure Dignified jobs
* Declare Rs 25000 as the Minimum Wage
* Withdraw all Anti-Worker Reforms in Labour Laws
* Equal pay for Equal Work
* Halt and withdraw Privatization of PSUs
* Stop Repression & Criminalisation of Workers Movements
* Ensure the Right to Form Unions
* Ensure Pension, Rs 15000 Unemployment Allowance, social security and all other rights of Unorganized Sector Workers
This initiative of MASA’s is part of an ongoing process of forging a unity of struggling working class forces throughout the country, to challenge the regime of exploitation, repression and alienation, and move towards developing a coherent coordinated process of struggling workers across the country.
Two and a half years back, on 26 August 2016, 14 workers’ organisations came together to form MASA in a Convention in Delhi and started with focusing initially on these central issues of a workers’ movement – against anti-worker labour law reforms, demanding minimum wage of Rs. 22,000 (calculations based on the price level on 1st January 2016), abolishing the contract labour system, calling for permanent workers for jobs that are permanent in nature, attending to the demands of unorganized sector workers, and to build an uncompromising struggle against anti-worker neoliberal policies.
This rally was the first central mobilization by MASA. Several thousand workers from about 20 states and various sectors took part. Well represented were organized sectors like automobile, electronics, garment, pharmaceuticals and related sectors from the core industrial regions in Gurgaon-Manesar (Haryana), Neemrana-Jaipur (Rajasthan), Rudrapur-Haridwar (Uttarakhand), Ahmedabad-Sanand (Gujarat), Pune-Mumbai-Goa, Chennai Sri Perumbudur; Tea garden Workers which included Chai Bagan SangramSamiti (CBSS) in Darjeeling Hills-Terai-Dooars and Chah Mukti Sangram Samiti, Assam; Workers of Coal mines from Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Bengal and Jharkhand; Rural workers from across the country, like MNREGA Mazdoor Union and Construction Workers Union from Haryana. Workers from Unorganized sectors were also there in strength, like the Safai Karamcharis from Gujarat and Rajasthan, Rickshaw and Thela Pullers, Jari makers, Bidi Workers Union, Construction Workers Union, Anganwadi Workers, and Domestic Workers Union from West Bengal.
After the rally ended, the workers were addressed by the leaders of participating trade unions. Worker leaders like Ajmer from Maruti Suzuki Workers Union, Manmohan from Daikin Air-Conditioning Mazdoor Union, Asha Pradhan from Chaay Bagan Sangram Samiti (Darjeeling), Suraj from the workers union in Micromax and others addressed the workers.
Currently, when the present ruling regime is wreaking havoc on the toiling masses of the country, and working class agenda/issues are almost absent from our current discourse in society and politics, this assertion by workers in the heart of the capital is a very important development. Today increased exploitation through massive contractualization, falling real wages and standard of living of working people is accompanied by intensified repression & criminalization of working class voices of protest and resistances. In this context, and that of ongoing ultra-nationalist war hysteria, the rally of workers in Delhi, their political assertion, and efforts of formations like MASA to raise working class voices is significant.
All Photographs courtesy Biswajit Hazra.