CPI(ML), AISA and AICCTU are conducting a campaign against demonetization from 16 November onwards in different working class settlements of Delhi, which is due to culminate in a March to the PM’s House on 26 November to demand its rollback.
Demonetisation is causing harm in tragic proportions in working class colonies. The first day of campaign was conducted in the Wazirpur industrial area in Delhi, where workers and their families living in slum clusters said that they are struggling to meet expenses of food, medical expenses, school fees, transport and other essentials ever since the demonetization move. One 70-year-old woman said that after she had waited in the queue for hours, a policeman shoved her away and told her to come another day. Another woman who had stood in the queue from 3 am onwards was told that she could not be allowed to withdraw money because they claimed she had already made a withdrawal. One worker lacked enough cash to get medicines for his wife who is a cancer patient. Several people said they are eating once a day so that they can stand in lines and not miss their chance to get their hard earned money. Children are going hungry because parents are standing in the line.
Workers are being forced to convert their factory owners’ money and they just can’t refuse because otherwise they risk losing their job. And when they are getting paid, they are being paid in old currency that has no purchasing power at all. And now the indelible ink is making it difficult for them to convert their own wage. Their wage in old notes can’t get anything from the shops. They have no credit worthiness so no one lends them anything. Landlords have refused to take the old currency and school fees are pending.
Those who get a monthly salary had just been given the salary a day before the announcement and they were stuck with money which they were running from pillar to post to get converted. No leave is available for standing in line.
Banks were busy converting money of people close to them, obviously the more well connected factory owners and managers, as serpentine queues of workers stood there waiting for cash to get over.
Women said they fainted while waiting and were brought back home – of course without any cash. Several people lost their wage and got no money either at the end of the day.
The government claimed it has collected “lakhs of black money” from people – people are saying: in that case, use that money to ensure free rations to the affected workers households; make travel free in buses and metros so that people can get to their workplaces without worrying about cash; ensure free health and education; ensure compensation for wages lost while standing in line.
Such a move is a violation of the right of workers to manage their own wage, in whichever way they like, without being arm twisted into a digital system and plastic money on which they have absolutely no control.
The day 2 of this campaign took a team of students and workers to Industrial Area in Narela. The miseries of the daily wage earners was apparent here. Some live in the fear that tomorrow their electricity might be cut-off, as despite having 500 rupees it wasn’t accepted at the electricity office as the bill was for 200 and they can’t get the change back. They are eating just one meal a day. ‘Sara karkhana bandh hai’, they said, “no work in the nearby mills for past one week.” A Bengali worker said, ‘Bhat daal dik totodin sorkar, maach to chahichhina’, (the government should provide us rice and dal till then, we are not demanding fish). A young mother said, “How can a withdrawal of Rs 4500 suffice? More than half of that is paid in rent, how can we survive on the balance?” Another young woman worker said, “It is workers who are in the queues, the moneyed are sitting pretty in their homes.” Another woman angrily asked, “We found it hard enough to get Rs 1000 notes changed. Now how can we get change for Rs 2000 notes?” The rage could be heard in the voice of a woman who said, “He (Modi) said ‘Accha din’ (good days) would come! Are these the good days?! He has shoved us into a pit!”
On the 3rd day of the campaign, teams reached Batla House Area of Jamia Nagar. Scarcity of daily food, medicine, wages, cash crunch, anger, desperation, helplessness – the same story was repeated there.
On 4th day the AISA-AICCTU team reached Kusumpur Pahari in Vasant Kunj area. This is one of the biggest working class slums in South Delhi, hardly 2 km away from JNU, the narrow lanes are surrounded by Priya Shopping Complex on one side and DLF Promenade mall on the other. A highly expensive private hospital is also close by. Residents of Kusumpur Pahari told us, “How do we buy daily ration when we are missing our Dihadi (daily wage)? But is it the same for those who goes to the malls, who can pay with cards?” Children and the elderly are not getting much-needed medical attention because the shops would not accept old currency for medicines.
On the 5th day team reached NOIDA industrial area where many shops remain closed, no job for contractual workers, cash crunch in banks, no money for treatment or essential medicines- the story was the same. But that is how it is for every worker, women, small shop owner and senior citizens. Some workers also said that factory owners are giving advance salary for 3 months with old 500 and 1000 to get rid of their old currency, which is of no use.
The campaign is continuing and on the coming 26th November, workers, women, students will march in Delhi towards Prime Minister House demanding-
1. Roll Back of Demonetisation.
2. Free distribution of food items and medicine for the poor till then.
3. Free transportation in railways, DTC and Cluster buses.
4. Punish the corporate defaulters of bank loans.
5. Investigate the Birla-Sahara scam in which lakhs of rupees were given by corporations to Narendra Modi when he was Gujarat CM
6. Bring the list of names who have deposited money in off-shore tax havens. Bring back this unaccounted money and punish the culprits.
In Bengaluru (Karnataka) on 17 November, several organizations including the CPI(ML), Garment and Textile Workers Union, Bangalore Jilla Beedhi Vyaapaari Sangathenagala Okkuta, National Hawkers Federation, New Socialist Alternative, Karnataka Tamil Makkal Aikyam, NCHRO, Karnataka Janarogya Chaluvali, Krantiveera Sangolli Rayanna Yuvakara Vedike, Aam Aadmi Party, Swaraj Abhiyan and others held a protest in front of the RBI, with the slogan ‘Occupy RBI’. The protesters raised slogans against the Modi Government’s ill-conceived, poorly implemented move to demonetize which is nothing but a political gimmick to hide the failures of the central government while also stealthily move to a corporate controlled digital economy, the implications of which are neither studied not discussed. The Bangalore police, in a blatant effort to deny the right to freedom and expression detained many protestors even before the protest and the arrests continued while the protest was on. Those arrested included CPI(ML) leaders Balan, Clifton, Raghu, Maitreyi and Appanna. This just shows that when it comes to thwarting democracy, Congress and BJP are partners. Even as crores of people are suffering, Congress and BJP politicians shamelessly attended the wedding of Janardhan Reddy’s daughter only shows their lack of intentions to fight the evils of black money.
The Bihar unit of CPI(ML) gave a statewide call for protests which were held on 16 November in all the districts and has since been conducting an intensive Week-long Protest Week from 17-22 November, with effigies of the PM being burnt and protests held in every corner of Bihar. Protests were also held in different parts of Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Rajasthan, Bengal and other states where marches, propaganda campaigns and effigy burnings took place.