Thursday, October 3, 2013

Red Salutes to Comrades Khan and Dalvi on October 3rd by Harsh Thakor

Today on October 3rd ,2013 we commemorate the 10th anniversary of comrades Dalvi and Khan who martyred themselves by commiting suicide in protest.

Their struggle lit torchlight in the struggle of the workers against the barbaric contract system Today, thousands of workers are enslaved by the tyranny of the contract system,worldwide. Inspite of strong protest the contract of labour still prevails. Khan and Dalvi symbolized the aspirations of hundreds of workers in India and the world. Above all it was  hindu and Muslim worker who were martyred together so the struggle was also a motto for secularism.
The nine-month long indefinite strike of the 70 retrenched project workers of the Tata Power Company (TPC) in Mumbai successfully ended when the management settled the workers’ dues. The TPC has been forced to pay substantial compensation of Rs 2 crore to the workers and their families. In 1996, TPC retrenched its 70 project workers. Though the workers fought their case, justice was not provided. On 3 October 2003, the official union members of the factory, who had earlier supported the workers, decided to withdraw their support by signing an agreement with the management. Spurred by the betrayal, the very same day the project workers staged a demonstration at the Tata headquarters in Mumbai.

Two among them - Anant Dalvi, the leader of the group, and Akhtar Khan, another active worker - shocked the headquarters when they doused themselves with kerosene and sent them to flames before the ‘Bombay House’. Anant Dalvi died the same day and Akhtar Khan died eight days later in hospital. The management tried to sort things by taking into confidence the mother and wife of Anant Dalvi, who refused to give in. Indira Ganpat Dalvi, the 70-year-old mother of Anant Dalvi showed tremendous courage when she let the top-level management know that they were not beggars. “We are here to ask for our rights, not alms. My son has given up his life for all 70 workers. And if the struggle succeeds Anjali Dalvi (Anant’s widow) will be the 70th person to accept the cheque from the company,” she said.
With the support of Jagrut Kamgar Manch (a platform for conscious workers) and various other unions, the workers took the struggle forward more vehemently. Demonstrations were held regularly in front of the ‘Mumbai House,’ an area under prohibitory orders. A signature campaign was another mode of protest. The protestors collected 2,500 signatures from supporters and well-wishers at different railway stations in three days. On 18 June 2004, without an appointment, the workers and their supporters went to the Maharashtra Chief Minister’s residence. Despite efforts by the police to stop them, 45 of them reached the residence though they were arrested for violating laws. They were detained and released only in the evening.

On 24 June, the Chief Minister called the workers’ representatives for a meeting, after which he wrote a note to the Labour Minister calling for his attention to the workers’ problem and an immediate solution. The Labour Minister called for a meeting of the workers’ representatives and top members of the Tata management on 30 June 2004. After an hour-long discussion, the management agreed to give the workers their dues. After negotiations, on 29 July 2004 the TPC management gave the 70 workers their dues. Other than the amount in the settlement, a special death allowance of Rs 750,000 each was given to the widows of Anant and Akhtar. As Indira Ganapat Dalvi said, Anjali Dalvi was the last person to accept the cheque from the management.
What was most significant were the mass protests that arose as a result of the self-burning of Comrades Khan and Dalvi. A huge chain and series of protest took place at the Tata house in Mumbai. Slogans were raised opposing privatization, globalization, giving compensation to the victim’s familes ,abolishing the contract labour system etc.Workers from all fields, youth and students participated. As ignificant contribution was made by the Railway workers Union. The Drivers Union also consistently participated.

The most  significant contribution was made by the Jagrut Kamgar Manch (workers consciousness front)of Mumbai which took the initiative in uniting the working class forces on this issue. The Manch educated the Tata Power project workers Union on the issue with great perseverance and was instrumental in the formation of a Kendra(centre) built as a memorial for the martyred workers in Vashi Naka.The Jagrut Kamgar Manch explained the evils of the social contract system and the attack on the working class on the whole by Imperialist globalization.
A most emotional memorial programme took place during the inauguration of the centre in March 2005.Programes commemorating  May Day, the 75th martyrdom of Shaheed Bhagat Singh and his 100 th birthday in September 2007 were commemorated.The author cannot forget how the children of the workers were drawn into programmes like a painting competition in memory of Shaheed Bhagat Singh etc.Programmes were also held opposing globalisation and privatization.

In August 2005 a memorable programme was done after the disastrous floods of July 26th when again the efforts of the Jagrut Kamgar Manch made a significant contribution in flood relief.9from a class-angle)The people of the area were educated about  the class angle of the development policies which hardly insulated the toiling people in averting disasters. A significant programme was also held for the Chattisagarh Mukti Morcha in 2006 who held a cultural programme.

A brilliant inter- relationship was made between the struggles of Shankar Guha Nyugi and that of Dalvi and Khan.
Today we must dip our blood in memory of comrades Dalvi and Khan whose sacrifice represented the aspirations of the working class as a whole.Dalvi and Khan  never formally upheld the ideology of Marx,Lenin and Mao but their act represented the very ideology of those revolutionaries.'

The author also  commends the efforts of the Jagrut Kamgar Manch Mumbai which literally toiled in keeping the spirits of the Tata Power Project workers alive  like a torchfire continuously burning. It brilliantly fought from outside the union .

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