'Historic' Nationwide General Strike Against 'Anti-People, Anti-Worker, Anti-Farmer' Policies
Preparations are underway for a nationwide general strike on November 26, with ten central trade unions also announcing their support to the two-day farmer’s protests scheduled for next week.
In a meeting held on November 16, the Joint Platform of Central Trade Unions (CTUs) and Sectoral Independent Federations and Associations expressed satisfaction over the response received from workers and people at large for the campaign against “anti-people, anti-worker, anti-national and destructive policies” of the incumbent government.
The Central Trade Unions claim that apart from workers, people from all walks of life and sections of society—including students, women, peasants and many social organisations—have extended their support to the call for a general strike.
Amarjeet Kaur, General Secretary of the All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC) told The Citizen that the countrywide general strike will be “historic” in many ways. “It is being held in Covid pandemic period because the government has used this opportunity to push its economic policies to attack [the] public sector and social sector as well as to dismantle the hard-won labour rights by the working class of our country”, through a battle they waged for almost 150 years, she said.
She further alleged that the government is bent upon corporatising the land “in favour of their corporate friends” through farm bills and the Essential Commodities Act, which, she stated, “is an attack on the food security act to make it redundant.”
She criticised the “shameless use of various institutions of the government and the oppressive acts such as UAPA and Sedition act to scuttle the voices of opposition.”
The strike was first announced on October 2, during a National Convention of Workers held virtually and organised jointly by the Central Trade Unions and various independent federations. While condemning the alleged “onslaught” by the Central and BJP state governments on ”basic democratic and constitutional rights of the workers, farmers and common people”, the Convention expressed their solidarity with the people’s struggles and that of workers from both organised and unorganised sectors.
The Convention also highlighted their support for farmer’s agitations, demanding the withdrawal of “anti-farmer agri laws which have been passed without even allowing voting on them.” It also noted the resistance struggles against privatisation in various sectors including railways, coal and the finance sector.
"The Convention calls upon all the working people, whether unionised or not, affiliated or independent, whether from organised sector or unorganised sector, to intensify the united struggle against the anti-people, anti-worker, anti-farmer and anti-national policies of the government and make the call for a countrywide general strike on 26th November 2020 a total success," read the press release.
According to the November 20 press release, representatives of All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC) have extended their support towards the general strike and will be organising solidarity demonstrations and Chakka Jaam on the day.
In turn, the Central Trade Unions and independent federations, which have been extending active solidarity to struggles of the peasantry and agricultural workers, have assured the AIKSCC of their participation in the farmer’s agitation, including in their Chalo Parliament march to Delhi on November 27. Along with demands that pertain directly to workers, the central trade unions and independent federations have also been campaigning for the withdrawal of the contentious agricultural laws passed in October.
“It is heartening that the peasants who are already in the midst of struggle against the draconian farm laws passed by the Modi Govt, support the workers fighting against the anti worker measures of this government,” stated the press release.
According to Kaur, the demands finalised for the strike include withdrawal of “anti-worker” labour codes, cash transfer of Rs. 7500 per month for all non-income tax paying families, 10 kg free ration per person per month for all those in need, expansion of the MGNREGA scheme to provide 200 days work per year in rural areas at enhanced wages along with extension of employment guarantee to urban areas.
In addition, the Central Trade Unions are also demanding pension for all, putting a stop to privatisation of the public and financial sectors, ending corporatisation of government-run manufacturing and service entities such as the railways and ports and withdrawing the “draconian circular” on forced premature retirement of government and PSU employees.
Posters, leaflets will be distributed while joint conventions will be held at state, district and local levels as well as at sectoral levels, jointly and independently by CTUs and their affiliated trade unions.
Keeping the pandemic in mind, the press release stated that decentralised protests will be held in all state capitals and will be extended to district headquarters wherever possible.
The Convention, while first announcing the general strike on October 2, had stated, “Let it be known that this One Day Strike is in preparation for more intense, more tenacious and longer struggles that lie ahead.”
The CTU’s press release hails the combined general strike and chakka jaam as the “beginning of a new phase of heightened struggle of the people in the direction of defiance and non-cooperation.”
The ten CTUs include Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC), All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC), Hind Mazdoor Sabha (HMS), Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), All India United Trade Union Centre (AIUTUC), Trade Union Co-ordination Centre (TUCC), Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA), All India Central Council of Trade Unions (AICCTU), Labour Progressive Federation (LPF) and United Trade Union Congress (UTUC).