Tuesday, May 3, 2011

A report on the 'Workers' Charter Movement' demonstration held on 1 May at New Delhi, by Sourav Banerjee

Thousands of workers packed into Delhi's jantar mantar on Sunday the first of may, on the eve of 125th anniversary of the historic may day, demanding social justice and workers' rights in the post colonial, capitalist India. Nearly 8000 workers belonging to Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, Delhi, Noida, Ghaziabad and Chattisgarh did join the demonstration in solidarity to the Workers' Charter Movement, factually which marks the beginning of a long drawn battle for the political and economic rights of the workers of the country. 

Since the morning the workers consisting of both men and women started pouring in the venue waving red flags and placards, chanting slogans as the helpless cops no more than alive looked on, clearing the way for traffic in Delhi's bustling centre. The march wove through the arterial roads up to the Jantar Mantar in the heart of the city, the epicentre of the protest and demonstration in the country.
Speakers representing several independent labor unions, labor periodicals and journals and intellectuals took to the stage in the square, urging for all the workers of both the organized and unorganized sector to unite under a combined banner of Workers' Charter Movement to fight a common enemy, one that's brought an immense attack on their rights, freedom and life. They have also warned the central government that if the demands of the 80 crore toiling masses i.e. the majority of it's citizens are not urgently paid attention to, then they will hold worker Panchayats(assemblies) in all the industrial regions, workers’ settlements and villages to mobilize the workers from every corner of the country in another 3 years and will lay siege to the national capital. Tapish from Textiles Workers’ Union, Gorakhpur; Rajvinder and Lakhvinder from the Karkhana Mazdoor Union, Ludhiana; Abhinav from Bigul Mazdoor Dasta, Delhi; Ashish from Karawal Nagar Mazdoor Union, Delhi; Ganesh Ram Chaoudhary, President, Chhattishgarh Mines Workers Union; Shekh Ansar, Vice President, Chhattisgarh Mukti Morcha; Kavita from Stree Mazdoor Sangathan, Delhi; Pramod Kumar from Bigul Mazdoor Dasta; Gorakhpur; Roopesh, labor organizer from north-west Delhi and a number of workers from different regions shared their valuable experiences they accumulated in the initiative. The meeting was compered by Satyam of workers periodical Mazdoor Bigul. Folk singer Faguram Yadav from Chattisgarsh elevated the spirit of the demonstrators through his revolutionary songs.

A charter was also presented to the government signed by thousands of workers from accross the country which called for a minimum monthly wage of 11,000 Indian rupees and a wage ceiling to ensure fair distribution of wealth the country has and been gaining through several resources.The other main demands of this 26 point charter are; enforcing an 8 hours work a day, stop forced overtime, 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 another most striking thing deserve mentioning which again bares the black face of the Indian main stream media is its utter reluctance to give any media coverage to this important event which marks the beginning of such a movement which has for the first time in the history of Indian labor movement, initiated an effort to unite the workers in the fight against their common enemy by producing a charter integrating all the demands of the whole working class of the country, though scores of media van were bee-ing arround the candle light demonstration or the kind staged against corruption happenning just in a stone throwing distance, widely known as 'Jan Lokpal' and 'India Against Corruption'; rightly put nothing more than a media circus orchestrated by renouned 'Anna Hazare' and some 'Egypt' inspired occassional week-end patriots, the people who don't even consider the loot and exploitation of the labor happenning in the modern frame-work of the industry as a corruption. I have forgotten that the media has to be essentially anti revolutionary. Well, but the attitude of the event clearly states the workers hardly cares.The demonstration was loud, vibrant and, with inspiration from the may day, many people felt like they will truly be able to turn the tide against these attacks from the ruling class. It smelt like a revolution. In the end the workers ate together, the groups and independent workers from different parts of the country exchanged words. It was 8 by the time in the evening when they left for their respective destination. After they left, i saw a few cops felt a sigh of relief and congratulated the organisers for not giving them a hard time and also over  heard someone saying "its the beginning man".

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