TRADE UNIONS cutting across party affiliations have shown a sharp rise in membership in the past 10 years, according to a survey by the Ministry for Labour and Employment.
The BJP-affiliated Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS), India’s largest trade union, is now more than twice its size in 1996, with a membership of 60 lakh. The Congress-affiliated INTUC has over 38 lakh members, up from 25 lakh 10 years ago.
The CPI’s AITUC has seen an astonishing membership rise from 9 lakh to 33 lakh, followed by the CPM’s CITU, whose strength has grown from 17 lakh to 26 lakh.
Prasenjit Bose, economist with the CPM’s research unit, said, “It shows the rising discontent of the working class with the economic policies of the government.”
The survey also showed that the number of central trade unions (those with memberships of over five lakh) has increased and that the unorganised sector too has seen a sharp growth in union membership. Says Bose: “Unionisation of the unorganised sector is a sign of expanding political consciousness.”
An eminent economist who did not wish to be named, said the survey results were surprising, because trade unionism usually declined with rising job opportunities. “In the past five years, the rate of job creation has been the fastest," he said.