All India Central Council of Trade Unions(AICCTU), Delhi State Committee organized a public meeting- “Ten Years of Pricol Workers Struggle: Challenges & The Way Forward for the Working Class “-toady at 5pm, in Gandhi Peace Foundation(GPF), New Delhi. The meeting was regarding the long and inspiring struggle of Pricol Workers in Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu. Comrade Sivakumar- one of the ‘Pricol 8’, who was recently acquitted by the Madras HC shared his experiences of decade long ‘Pricol Workers’ Struggle’ during the meeting. It was followed by inputs and discussions from various participants with focus on charting the way forward for release of the two remaining comrades and other workers who face similar injustices all over the country.
Santosh Rai, AICCTU Delhi Secretary welcomed everyone stressing on the recent anti people and anti worker policies of the BJP Govt. and the urgent need to fight back. Comrade S Kumarasamy, President AICCTU addressed the meeting highlighting the heroic struggle of automobile workers from Maruti to Pricol. HE said, ‘the fight will go on both taking the legal recourse and on the streets for the release of two comrades, Com. Manivannan and Com. Ramamurthy’.
Comrade Sivakumar one of the PRICOL 8 reasserted that our Pricol comrades are fighting for last ten years and the fight will go on in the coming days against newer assaults of corporate state nexus.
Representatives of various Central Trade Unions including AITUC, AIUTUC, NTUI and comrades from Maruti and Honda were also present in the solidarity meeting. The meeting saw a good participation from workers belonging to various Trade Unions like Building Workers Union, All India General Kamgar Union, Dilli Gharelu Kamgar Union(Delhi domestic Workers’ Union), Dilli Rehdi-Khokha-Patri Union(Delhi Hawkers and Street Vendors Union) etc. Protest songs were presented by Sangwari Theatre Group during the meeting.
Pricol Struggle: A Background
In over a decade of struggles, the Pricol workers have fought a courageous and determined battle against the combined might of company management and the conniving state machinery which is unrelenting in victimizing the workers. Twenty Seven comrades including Comrade S Kumarasami, National President, AICCTU were falsely implicated in various cases for raising the demand of Pricol Workers. This case was tried by the bomb blast cases court in Coimbatore. On 03.12.2015 the Sessions court convicted eight leading workers of the Pricol workers’ struggle Comrades Manivannan, Ramamurthy, Rajendran, Sivakumar, Velmurugan, Saravankumar, Sampathkumar, Gunabalan to double life imprisonment.
To a long drawn struggle that has won many battles, the double life imprisonment given to eight leading comrades of Kovai Maavatta Pricol Thozhilalargal Otrumai Sangam, affiliated to AICCTU; came as a big jolt. However, with tremendous support and solidarity which poured in from all parts of the country the Union geared up for an uphill task. ‘Free The PRICOL 8’ campaign was conducted all over the country with the strength of numbers, as the Union was completing a long decade of struggles.
In similar instances, the treatment meted out to Maruti Workers for charges which remain unfounded, remains a case study of the atrocities that the working class face at the hands of a pro-corporate, anti-worker government. Workers’ struggles, be they from Pricol, Maruti or Honda, remain a source of inspiration for millions.
A significant victory came for the Pricol workers when six of the ‘Pricol 8’ were acquitted by the Madras High Court. Of the total 27 comrades who were charge sheeted, 25 are now acquitted while two remain imprisoned. The fight for the release of Comrade Ramamurthy and Comrade Manivannan continues now with fresh vigor.
The Way Ahead : Comrade Rajiv Dimri, Secretary, AICCTU said , “These are difficult times not only for the common people of the country but for the toiling masses all around the world. The exploits of globalization are such that a handful of people own all the resources and wealth while most remain impoverished. The struggles of working class are indeed a great inspiration for all of us, to learn from and to chart the way ahead”. He said that we must come together with even more effort to fight the increased onslaught of the neo-liberal policies. The rich might well think that the government is with them, and that is so, but the people stand with the struggles.
The meeting ended with a firm resolve to continue the fight for workers’ rights and dignity all over the country.
Earlier on February 14, 2017, All India General Kamgar Union, JNU Unit organized a solidarity meeting in JNU, which was attended by hundreds of workers from the union as well as students. Comrade Sivakumar and Comrade Kumarasami were welcomed by AIGKU members and Comrade Santosh Roy, Secretary AICCTU Delhi at JNU gate from where a juloos proceeded towards Sabarmati lawn. Comrade Sivakumar, one of the ‘Pricol 8’, who was recently acquitted alongwith five other comrades of AICCTU-KMPTOS addressed the meeting and gave a brief history of Pricol workers’ struggle. He stressed that the need of the hour is to build bigger unity, and to intensify the fight for the release of Comrade Manivannan and Comrade Ramamurthy.