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Thousands of Workers Will Converge on Jantar‐Mantar to Present Their Charter of Demands on the Occasion of 125th Anniversary of May Day
New Delhi, 26 April. On the occasion of 125th anniversary of May Day (1 May, 2011), workers from several parts of the country will knock on the doors of the parliament in Delhi, along with their charter of demands signed by thousands of workers across the country. Workers mainly from Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, Delhi, Noida, Ghaziabad and Chhattisgarh will participate in the demonstration.
The significance of this movement is that the workers are presenting their demands under the combined banner of the 'Workers' Charter Movement' against the practice of several unions and organisations having their own agenda which separately, divides the workers and weakens their struggle. Therefore, the 'Workers' Charter Movement' is starting a long 'Workers' Satyagrah' by presenting the common demands of the whole working class to the government.
Some independent labour organisations and unions active in different parts of the country and a labour journal have taken the initiative to draft the charter and take it to the workers and a few labour assemblies (Mazdoor Panchayats) also aided in this process, but this movement is not organised under the banner of any union, organisation or political party. It aims to transform this into a unified struggle of the entire working class of the country. This movement is intended to run in several phases and cycles. A symbolic start is being made on the occasion of the 125th anniversarry of the historic 'May Day'.
Since the past few months, teams of workers and activists have been visiting industrial areas, workers' colonies, workers' lodges, lanes and by lanes in the slums as well as among rural workers to educate them about the charter and collect their signatures. Night meetings are held and street meetings and cultural shows are organised to popularise the charter in several areas.
The charter contains 26 categories of demands of industrial and rural workers which represent almost all major needs of the working class of India and also give expression to their political demands. The main demands include: enforcing an 8 hours working day, stop forced overtime, increase minimum wage to Rs. 11,000 per month, abolish contract system, make proper safety arrangements in factories and payment of proper compensation in case of accidents, ensure equal rights to women workers, safeguard interests of migrant workers, registration of all domestic and independent daily wage workers and construction workers, put an end to the corruption in the labour departments and effective implementation and review of labour laws.
The movement says that the country today is agitated on the issue of corruption but the biggest corruption is that which constantly denies the workers the fruits of their labour. No opposition to corruption can be successful if it is not accompanied by the fight against this legal and illegal plunder of labour power. There can be no real justice when 80% of the population lives in continuous denial of their basic rights.
The real benefitters of the development in the two decades of liberalisation and privatisation have been the top 15% of the population while the disparity between the rich and poor has disgustingly widened. The 20 years of rapid economic development have pushed the workers into further misery. The worst lot among these is the rural and urban workers of the unorganised sector and the vast majority of unorganised workers in the organised sector.
Whatever constitutional and democratic rights the workers had gained through several struggles and sacrifices have been snatched away. The old labour laws are insufficient and are hardly implemented. Whatever new laws are introduced by the government, are either mostly ineffective, or pro‐capitalist. The legal process in the labour courts is so complex and lengthy that a poor labourer hardly has any chance to get justice out of it. The number of labour deptt. offices including the officers and the staff is vastly inadequate and instead of enforcing the labour laws, this department acts as an agent of the industry owners in most of the cases. Even the number of labour courts and industrial tribunals is enormously less than needed. The fundamental right to live has become meaningless for the working masses of India. Civil liberties and democratic rights have become empty words for them.
Basic rights such as minimum wages, proper limit of working hours, ESI, job card etc. are not available to more than 90% of the industrial and rural workers of India. Even after working for 12‐14 hours at a stretch in hellish, unhygienic and hazardous conditions they can hardly fulfill their basic needs. Despite the severe price‐rise, most of the factory workers are paid a paltry sum, ranging between 1800 to 4500 rupees per month. In case of death or injury due to the accidents occurring frequently in the workplaces, they are hardly compensated and often not even provided with basic medication, and in many cases sacked from the job. Most of the workers are contract, casual, wage and piece‐rate labourers and almost every labour law is brazenly flouted by the owners.
In this situation, the working people of India want to let the parliament and Government of India know that they are not ready to bear any more injustice and atrocities. The workers have begun a long campaign to regain their rights and justice. As the first step, a workers charter is being presented to the people’s representatives and to the government demanding a life of dignity, democratic and constitutional rights along with their fair share in the progress of the country.
— for, Convening Committee
Workers' Charter Movement ‐ 2011
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