May Day 2017 was observed by India’s working class at a time when the BJP Governments at the Centre and states are trying to claim that May Day is un-Indian and that the festival of Vishwakarma Puja is the only Labour Day India needs! The Prime Minister used the occasion to tweet the RSS slogan ‘Shrameva Jayate’ (which in Sanskrit means ‘Work Will Be Victorious’); he speaks of work being victorious while working for the defeat of workers and the victory of capital and capitalists! Labour laws are being attacked, dismantled and diluted by the Modi Government. Trade Union activists of Maruti and Pricol are in jail, framed and convicted on murder charges just as the Haymarket martyrs were 131 years ago! While waiving taxes and loans for corporations, the Government is punishing workers who form and lead trade unions. It is keeping minimum wages low and making contract work and violation of the equal-pay-for-equal-work principle the norm. Patriarchal norms are invoked to justify discrimination against and sexist restrictions and abuses for women workers. Dalit workers continue to be subjected to inhuman caste atrocities such as manual scavenging in the name of ‘labour.’ Unions affiliated to AICCTU observed May Day all over India, expressing solidarity with the Maruti and Pricol workers and resolving to resist communal-corporate fascism, including attacks on workers’ rights, and attacks on Muslim minorities on various pretexts.
AICCTU and AIARLA held May Day Rally in Coimbatore on May 1 with the slogan Let The Red Flags Rise Up. This rally which falls in the centenary year of Russian revolution and fiftieth year of Naxalbari uprising also marked the tenth year of the rally held by Pricol workers on the same day in the same venue.
The rally is held in Coimbatore in the background of renewed attack on Pricol workers by the management. Pricol workers are also in the process of fighting for the release of two of their vanguards in the Supreme Court. The Pricol management which expected the workers to be weak in such a situation went on to cut 8 days pay for undergoing strike in support of drought-hit farmers of TN as a part of general strike call given by the Party. But the management had again bitten the dust and hundreds of Pricol workers joined the rally with a renewed resolve to fight for the release of their own comrades and Maruti workers. Pricol workers also passed a resolution in the meeting to go on an indefinite strike if the management fails to withdraw the punitive pay cut. Com.P.Natarajan President of Pricol workers’ union read out the resolution.
Com.S.Kumarasami State Secretary CPIML came down heavily on the role of Modi government in dealing with the Kashmir issue. He called for withdrawal of armed forces and for a political solution. He also criticized the killings in the name of cow protection and demanded immediate punishment to the perpetrators of Alwar killing. He condemned the backdoor attempts of BJP to gain a foothold in Tamilnadu and called for holding high the red flags in confronting the corporate communal casteist racist fascist forces in the country.
Chennai District Party gave Rs. 1 lakh for Pricol workers case fund. Com.Balasubramanian, Dist Party Secretary, Coimbatore received it. Comrades of Democratic Advocates Association also gave Rs.10,000 fund for Pricol workers case as a first instalment to Com. S. Kumarasami.
Around three thousand urban and rural workers joined the rally which was inaugurated by State Honorary President Comrade Jawahar. The public meeting held after the colourful rally was convened by Com.N.K.Natarajan. Comrade Balasubramanian, District Party Secretary, Coimbatore, Comrade Bhuvana National Secretary AICCTU, AS Kumar State President AICCTU, Comrade Janakiraman, State general secretary AIARLA, Bharati State Convenor Democratic Advocates Association, Com.Venkatesan, State Secretary AIARLA and Com. Rajaguru, State President, RYA spoke in the meeting.
A cultural team from Pudukottai staged a performance highlighting the dangers of proposed hydrocarbon project in the district and the need to oppose it. Another team from Cuddalore played drums in the rally.
Bengaluru and Karnataka
AICCTU held a May Day rally from Freedom Park to Town Hall in Bengaluru, in which around 1500 workers participated, including contract powrakarmikars (sanitation workers), workers from the Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board, Lafarge, RMC, RDC, Race Course, Kennametal India, National Aeronautics Laboratories, NIMHANS, and Mico Bosch. The rally concluded in a public meeting at Town Hall in which leaders from each of these Unions spoke.
Com Gangamma, Com Anjanamma, Com Vanjamma and Com Shobha from the BBMP contract powrakarmikas spoke of how their condition had gotten better with the increase of minimum wages to Rs. 14,400/- They spoke of the need to ensure dignity and dignified working conditions including weekly off, leaves and holidays.
Com Ashok from RDC spoke of the need to remember the sacrifice of the workers who had lost their lives on May Day. He also spoke of the need to remember the sacrifice of Bhagat Singh who had spoken of the need to ensure the rights of the workers.
Com Hemanth and Com Mukund from the Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board spoke of strength in unity and the need to carry forth the struggle together.
Com Balan spoke of how the State in entirety had betrayed the working class. He spoke of how the Government had failed to notify minimum wages, how the judiciary failed to protect the rights of workers, while safeguarding corrupt politicians. He demanded release of Maruti and Pricol workers, and spoke of how the only way forwards was that of struggle.
For the first time, CPIML – AICCTU workers marched on the streets of Mangalore city, which is a hotbed of communal fascist forces in Karnataka. Workers shouted slogans against the nexus of corporate and communal forces, against anti-worker amendments in labour laws and demanded a minimum wage of Rs. 21000 and release of Pricol and Maruti worker leaders. A large number of port workers (shipping company workers) participated in the Mangalore rally, demanding streamlining industrial relations prevailing in shipping companies engaged in cargo movement at New Mangalore Port Trust and other ports.
Comrade Shankar, CPIML, called upon a movement of red flag against the saffron forces in the soil of Mangalore. Dr. Lakshmi Narayana, Karnataka state convener of AIPF emphasized on the role of workers in resisting fascism. Vidya Dinker criticized the central government for the Smart City project in Mangalore and exposed the corporate land and real estate mafia operating around it. Com. Puttegowda, CPIML State leading Team Member called upon workers to defeat the anti-workers designs of BJP led central and Congress led state governments.
An impressive rally of unorganized workers – mainly construction workers – was held at Bangarpet, Kolar district in Karnataka, led by Comrade Prabhu and Comrade Mohan.
At Ranchi, an Adhikar March was led by AICCTU State General Secretaries Shubhendu Sen and Bhuvaneshwar Kevat, AICCTU leader Sudama Khalkho, as well as leaders of the State Non-Gazetted Employees Federation Gopal Singh, Sushila Tigga, Somprakash, Sadanand Yadav and others.
Marches and mass meeting were held at Nirsa, Dhanbad and Gobindpur, Dhanbad city and Baliyapur.
At Bokaro Steel City, on the eve of May Day, the red flag was hoisted by workers at the AICCTU office to pay tribute to May Day martyrs and Prabhat Pheri held on the morning of May Day, and a Sankalp Sabha was held at Naya Mod in the evening. At Ramgarh, a Sankalp March by Jharkhand Nirman Mazdoor Union. Mass meeting held among workers of the Jharkhand Steel Plant. Workers of Ara Colliery participated in a meeting at the CMWU office. Steel workers of Anandita Steel Plant held a mass meeting.
At Hesalang, a mass meeting was held and also a pit meeting at Argoda GM office at Giddi C. At Deoghar the Rasoiya Sanyojika Sangh (Midday meal workers), Anganwadi Sevika Sangh, Jharkhand Rural and Agricultural Workers Association and AIPWA held a march and meeting.
At Garhwa, AICCTU, Jhamas and Jharkhand Construction Workers Union held a march and mass meeting, highlighting how the May Day martyrs struggled for and won an 8-hour day, but beedi workers in the district still have to work 16 hours a day!
At Koderma, Jharkhand General Mazdoor Union observed May Day at Banjhedih Power plant against highhandedness of contractor and demanding hike in minimum wages, payment of arrears and withdrawal of false cases filed against workers.
At Godda, the Rasoiyya Sangh, Jal Sahiya Sangh, Home Guard Sangh and AIPWA held a march and meeting. At Giridih, CPI(ML) held a 3-day Jan Jagaran (People’s Awakening) Campaign, holding street corner meetings in villages, campaigning for workers’ and peasants’ unity and resistance to the communal lynch-mob politics of the RSS and BJP.
CPIML, AICCTU,AICWF units of Puducherry jointly held May day rally and public meeting on 1st May at Villiyanur, a developing town of Puducherry. The rally gave a call ‘to assert the rights of the working class, Reject the proxy war between the Congress government and the Lieutenant Governor to undermine people’s interests.’ The rally was lead by M.A Akbar, state vice president of AICCTU. Hundreds of, rural and factory workers took part in the rally. The rally culminated into a big public meeting.
The demands raised included – a labour policy as assured by the CM; withdrawal of Loading And Unloading ( Employment Regulation And Welfare) Bill 2017; minimum wage of Rs 20000 with DA; abolition of the contract labour system; 5. round the year employment to handloom weavers and lean period assistance Rs 5000; Rs 7500 as monthly pension to construction workers; strict implementation of MNREGA; A law to recognize Trade Unions compulsorily and loan waiver to farmers and drought relief for farm labourers.
In Delhi, various Central trade unions jointly held a rally from Ramlila Maidan to Town Hall, raising their voice against the Government’s assaults on workers’ rights and liberties, as well as on the Constitutional rights and liberties of all, especially minorities and dissenting voices. They called upon workers to resist the attempts to turn India into a Hindu Rashtra.
May Day was observed at Nagbhushan Bhavan, Bhubaneshwar, Odisha, where workers from the construction sector, contract labour from Railways, domestic workers, medical workers, and sanitation workers participated. May Day was also observed at Puri, Kendrapara, Bargarh, Sonepur, Jaypur, Gajapati, Keonjhar and Bolangir.
Other May Day reports will follow in next week’s ML Update.