CPI MEMBER of Parliament Gurudas Dasgupta on Thursday said Oscar Fernandes, the Union Labour Welfare Minister, should genuinely redress problems of the labourers and workers in the country.
“It is the workers who constitute the backbone of the nation and without increasing their bargaining power and redressing their grievances, any kind of economic reform is futile,” he said while addressing a State-level convention of the All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC) in the City.
Referring to the government’s apathy to the unorganised sector, the AITUC general secretary said 37 crore unorganised labour and agricultural workers are compelled to work more than the prescribed hours with low wages and without any kind of benefits like provident fund, pension or medical facilities. “Same is the case of New Wave factories and textile industries, where exploitation is at its peak,” he quipped.
Giving a clarion call to make ‘Delhi Red’ on November 23 – ‘March to the Parliament’, Dasgupta said the union would compel the Union Government to change its labour policies, before it is too late. Condemning the State Government for its policy of handing over few coalmines in private hands, he said the contract workers in these mines even do not get one-third of the wage received by the permanent ones. He criticised the Chhattisgarh Government’s decision to hand over tribal lands in private hands.
“Though the Tatas have promised jobs to the displaced tribals, they would just get away with paltry compensation and jobs won’t be given, because, these tribals in Chhattisgarh lack requisite education and skills to work in factories,” he pointed out.
Referring to the last general election, the CPI MP said the 30% mandate was given against the Congress and the BJP, and Madhya Pradesh too should follow it by sending its representative from the CPI to Parliament as both these parties failed to address workers’ issues.
Earlier, in a press conference, Dasgupta came down heavily on the anti-people, anti-labour economic policy of the UPA Government. “The UPA Government is following the NDA’s policy and the Prime Minister is just a mere spectator,” he alleged. “Keeping SEZs, IT sector out of labour laws, suicide of farmers – all confirm that a new comprehensive, central labour law needs to be introduced,” he stressed.
“While Union Finance Minister Chidambaram is giving slogans of doubling agricultural credit, the farmers’ suicides are due to the banks not extending loans and 70% of financing is still done by moneylenders,” alleged Dasgupta.
Later speaking to Hindustan Times, he agreed that though not much could be achieved by calling nationwide strikes in two years, it however compelled the UPA Government to backtrack on its disinvestment decision. “We didn’t let them pass a single bill that was against the common minimum programme,” he pointed out. Mere lectures and sloganeering would not help achieving goal.
Instead concrete strategy and leadership needed to combat exploitation of workers and fight out unemployment.
Making an appeal for a massive support to the November 23 march and December 14 general strike, AITUC national secretary GL Dhar said strong protest need to be registered for effective enforcement of labour laws.
Stating that MP has 15 lakh beedi workers, he pointed out that beedi manufacturers have demanded the government to keep beedi workers out of the purview of Minimum Wages Act and labour laws. “No identity cards are issued to labourers,” he alleged.