defending the immediate interests of both permanent and contract workers, we must fight determinedly against privatisation and public-private collusion and boldly raise the workers’ voice against corruption, injustice and infringement of workers’ democratic rights.

Sick and Closed Industries

51. Few industries actually fall sick, most have sickness thrust upon them by cunning industrialists and colluding governments. Also, sickness need not be a chronic or irreversible phenomenon. Thanks to increased global economic integration the recession in one part of the world is being felt in another part and many rising industries suddenly go into a decline. Likewise many so-called sunset industries can also get back into life. An expert committee set up by the central government has for example categorically rejected the perception that jute is a sick industry pointing to the actual profit being earned and the prospects ahead. Yet the industry deliberately ‘nurtures’ sickness by neglecting necessary modernisation and technological upgradation.

52. With closed factories densely dotting India’s industrial landscape, workers and ex-workers of sick and closed factories have come to constitute a category by themselves. Their sufferings know no bounds but they are rediscovering their militant role in sunset industries like textile, jute and engineering by launching struggles on new issues such as claims on land and PF/gratuity dues. A large number of public transport workers in West Bengal are not getting their wages and other dues; a few have even committed suicide even as the fight is on to get what is legally due to them. In Assam, sustained initiatives taken by AICCTU and the Coordination Committee of Trade Unions, Assam have succeeded in securing benefits worth Rs 350 crore for workers of 13 closed PSUs between 2007 and 2010.

53. Experience shows that with determined struggle even ex-workers of closed mills can secure at least some of their dues. The textile workers of Mumbai for example have reclaimed land they had lost in the wake of the historic strike of 1982, i.e., after three decades. They got organized and resorted to various forms of struggle including court battles. The Government of Maharashtra was ultimately forced to promise rehabilitation to workers. Some 6948 of these workers have got subsidised flats built on mill land (going back on the promise of free flats the government is charging the workers at the rate of Rs 7.5 lakh per flat) but another 140,000 workers are still fighting for their rehabilitation. Similarly, workers in Gouripur jute mill (North 24 Parganas, West Bengal) have been able to get part of their PF and pension dues through years of relentless struggle – court battles as well as propaganda and agitation in the mill area. Now the struggle is continuing on other demands like gratuity, inclusion of all workers in the BPL scheme and so on.

Hazardous Industries, Degrading Jobs

54. From fireworks factories to illegal mining and risky construction, the problem of hazardous industries is huge. There are frequent reports of factory fire killing children and women workers or construction workers suffering fatal injuries in construction sites. Hundreds of workers died during the construction of Delhi Metro, the showpiece of modern urban transport in the national capital. Then there are industries like asbestos plants and various chemical factories that continue to spread killer diseases and toxic fumes. The revolutionary working class movement must take up the issue of industrial safety and security and the health and hygiene of workers as seriously as the question of employment and wages.

55. While fighting for dignity of labour, the revolutionary working class movement must also fight for abolition of degrading work and suitable rehabilitation of workers who remain trapped in degrading work. Despite tall official claims, manual scavenging still remains a harsh reality in many parts of India and we must press for immediate and total abolition of this degrading practice and adequate rehabilitation of the liberated manual scavengers. Likewise, hand-pulled rickshaws continue to persist in Kolkata in the absence of schemes of alternative employment and proper rehabilitation. Abolition of all sorts of degrading work and all forms of bondage is central to the agenda of the revolutionary working class movement.