Workers’ Adhikar Rally in West Bengal

They came in thousands. They were the workers of closed mills – New Central, Gouripore jute mills, from Mohini mills, a unit of National Textile corporation, they came with their family members and participated in the rally with empty utensils as a symbol of their penury and starvation. Tea garden workers also came from Darjeeling district, defying the cold wave, voicing their fight for their minimum wage, which the Mamata Government has delayed declaring only to appease the tea barons. The construction workers, most affected after demonetization, jute workers with their demand of minimum wages participated in large numbers. ASHA-mid day meal workers also participated enthusiastically in the rally, defying threats by TMC people. The domestic workers were not behind. They also participated in the rally with their demand of recognition as workers and minimum wages which the state government refuses to accept. Minimum wages of Rs 18000, social security, trade union rights were the central slogans of the rally. Slogans against the corporate- and communal-fascist government of Modi and the anti-worker policies of the Mamata Government rent the air.

The workers of West Bengal State Transport Corporation also came to this rally – both contract workers, employed in perennial jobs but deprived off all statutory benefits and trade union rights, as well as permanent workers who have been denied off their legitimate bonus and retirement benefits.

The bidi workers, who are not getting their stipulated government-notified wages, the hawkers, the rickshaw pullers and workers from a large spectrum of unorganised sector jobs, as well as the organised workers, both permanent and contractual from Railways and Power also joined this rally. Women workers from different sectors were very visible in the rally. Agricultural labourers and rural workers under the banner of AIARLA also participated in this rally. On 5th January, 2018, a 6-member team of State AICCTU met the MIC Labour and submitted a memorandum. The Minister assured to fulfill some demands long raised by AICCTU.

Two big rallies, one from Howrah & the other from Sealdah, decorated with red flags and union banners culminated at Rani Rashmoni Avenue, the central place of Esplanade for the meeting. The mass meeting started after thousands of workers stood in silence to pay tribute to Zafar Khan, the first martyr of Swacchh Bharat, Afrajul who was lynched and burnt alive at Rajasthan on 6th December, victims of communal violence, and in memory of Prabhat Kumar, AICCTU activist and cadre of Howrah district who died suddenly on 6th January, 2018. The meeting was addressed by Com Partha Ghosh, Secretary, CPIML, West Bengal State committee, Sajal Adhikary, Secretary of West Bengal AIRAALA, Basudev Basu, General Secretary, AICCTU, West Bengal, Abhijit Mazumdar, leader of Tarai Sangrami Cha Sramik Union, Omprakash Rajbhar, State leader of Bengal Chatkal Mazdoor Forum, Kishore Sarkar, Secretary , All Bengal Construction Workers Union, Balaram Majhi, Secretary , All West Bengal State Transport Union, Rupali Bagh, Secretary All Bengal Asha workers Union. The meeting decided to go for an all-out signature collection in favour of the fighting Pricol workers addressed to the CG of SC, called upon all the workers to make the All India Strike of the centrally sponsored project workers called by the CTUs on 17th January a grand success. The cultural team of Gana Sansrikitik Parishad sang inspiring songs that enthused the entire gathering. Atanu Chakravarty, President, AICCTU, West Bengal presided over the meeting.