Trade unions said on Thursday that the ruling Congress-led UPA’s economic policies are anti-poor and warned that if it continues to brush aside the problems of the labour class, it’s a matter of time before the Government falls.
Senior trade union leaders said that the Government is ignoring the very constituency on which it depends for being in power. The leaders gave a country-wide call for a general strike on December 14, and warned that if the Government fails to wake up even after that, trade unions are ready with a plan to launch a sustained campaign against it.
The leaders were addressing a rally of thousands of workers from the unorganised and the agricultural sector near Modern School on Barakhamba Road on Friday. It was organised by the All-India Trade Union Congress (AITUC) and the Bhartiya Khet Mazdoor Union (BKMU).
CPI general secretary and AITUC vice-president, AB Bardhan said that the rally has put the Government on notice. "This (the rally) is a notice to the Government that it’s economic policies are not good for us (labour class). Problems are not being solved. If the Government still does not listen, finally it would fall. Do not ask when,’’ Bardhan said.
Referring to the National Common Minimum Programme (NCMP), Bardhan said that the law for agricultural workers and the law to provide social security to workers in the unorganised sector have remained mere promises made in the NCMP.
"The Women’s Reservation Bill is at last being introduced in Parliament but there’s no guarantee that it would be passed. The Sachar Committee has also revealed that pathetic situation of Muslims in the country,’’ Bardhan said.
Bardhan made repeated reference to the special economic zones (SEZs), saying that fertile land has been usurped by the Government on behalf of industrial houses. "They talk about the China SEZ model. But China only has six-to-eight SEZs and they are located near the coast where the land is not very fertile. Here, 300 SEZs are coming up on fertile land,’’ he said.
Gurudas Das Gupta, AITUC president, said, "The Prime Minister is at our mercy but ignoring our demands. In fact, the Government’s weaknesses have opened avenues for the BJP. We will ensure that Manmohan Singh and Chidambaram’s policies are not followed.’’
Das Gupta said that labour laws are being violated all over the country. "Workers are not getting wages, bonus, provident fund and gratuity. The percentage of unemployment is 30 per cent. On December 14, we resort to chakka jam, disrupt railway services and hold agitation meetings to put our point across,’’ he said.
The rally was attended by workers from across the country. While the trade unions claimed that more than lakh workers attended it, a more conservative estimate pegged the attendance at about 50,000.