In this Issue
- International Women’s Day and the Women’s Movement in India
- AIPWA protests growing violence on women in WB
- India’s Working Class Strike of 28 February a Clear Mandate for Immediate Reversal of Ongoing Economic Policies
International Women’s Day and the Women’s Movement in India
Woman is born in chains, but everywhere she is fighting to be free. It is a world-historic struggle being waged in different ways in different national settings.
In our country the peculiar Indian version of neoliberal model of growth preserves, profits from and in some cases reproduces in modified forms certain vestiges of feudalism in socio-economic structures, customs and value systems. The working people of India, women included, therefore have to suffer the worst of both worlds – feudal backwardness and obscurantism as well as modern capitalist expropriation and exploitation. Among them, it is women and children whose interests are most severely jeopardized in myriad ways, for example by the retreat of the neoliberal state from its welfare responsibilities and the state-sponsored corporate land-grab campaigns. In addition to the perennial violence of hunger, women are routinely subjected to all kinds of oppression, discrimination and sexual assaults, with people in high positions feeling free to indulge in such crimes and shielding other criminals. In this respect Congress-ruled Delhi and Rajasthan look exactly like, say, NDA-ruled Bihar and West Bengal under its first woman Chief Minister.
Attacks and obstacles notwithstanding, more and more women are coming out of their homes not only to take up traditional occupations but also to avail themselves of the new job opportunities, however limited, opened up by capitalist greed for exploiting cheap female labour. Even in the face of feudal- patriarchal opposition, they are trying to utilise the new opportunities – introduced by the provision of 50% reservation in panchayati raj institutions – for playing more active social and political roles as people’s representatives. The net impact of all this is that on one hand women are drawn into a new vortex of oppression and struggle in the wider world, while on the other the new experiences equip them with a keener political awareness, a higher sense of dignity and self confidence. The taste of hard-won relative freedom generates among them a healthy urge for further extending its narrow confines.
The slow but irresistible changes in the lives and attitudes of Indian women – changes that are no less conspicuous in the countryside than in urban areas – cannot but incite the forces of feudal-patriarchal reaction into frenzied attempts to stop the wheels of history. Such attempts range from emotional appeals to ‘the sacred duties and virtues’ of Indian mothers and wives through all kinds of moral policing to physical assaults, fatwas, honour killings and so on. But repression only regenerates resistance and domination the determination to fight back. Braving all difficulties and pains, women of India continue their forward march. It is this cool determination and robust dynamism of ordinary Indian women that a revolutionary women’s organisation tries to imbue with a communist consciousness and give the shape of an organized movement.
The practice of observing the 8th of March as International women’s Day was initiated about hundred years ago by socialist leaders like Alexandra Kollontai. A grand new chapter was opened up in the history of the struggle for women’s emancipation. A few years later the Communist International proclaimed in its programme complete social equality between man and woman in law and in real life, revolutionary transformation of husband-wife relationship and family code, status of social work to motherhood, social responsibility of nursing and education of children and adolescents and relentless struggle against all ideas and traditions that enslave women. Since then communists all over the world have steadfastly pursued this agenda as a most vital and inalienable component of the struggle for communism. On the occasion of International Women’s Day let us all rededicate ourselves to this noble cause.
AIPWA protests growing violence on women in WB
The West Bengal unit of AIPWA is trying to build a protest campaign against the growing incidence of violence on women and the highly reprehensible anti-women role of the Administration led by the state's first-ever woman Chief Minister. On 24 February it played an active role in organising a protest march in Kolkata along with other comrades and mass organisations under the banner of CPI(ML). On 27 February a team of AIPWA leaders including state secretary Chaitali Sen went to the Writers' Buildings (the state secretariat) to submit a memorandum to the Home-cum-Chief Minister. The main demands included: Mamata Bannerjee must apologise to the people of West Bengal for shamelessly depicting the Park Street rape case as "concocted" and must relinquish the Home portfolio; removal of the Transport Minister Madan Mitra and the Kolkata Police Commissioner for their patriarchal statements; severe punishment of the criminals involved in the rape incidents and so on.
The deputation was received by a Joint Secretary of the Home Department. Comrades spaced a protest, raising slogans, both inside and in front of Writers' Building.They were eventually arrested but the protest continued in the police lock-up. After 6 PM they were unconditionally released.
India’s Working Class Strike of 28 February a Clear Mandate for Immediate Reversal of Ongoing Economic Policies
The CPI(ML) leader and General Secretary of All India Central Council of Trade Unions (AICCTU) Comrade Swapan Mukherjee congratulated the working class for the unprecedented Countrywide General Strike on 28 February and termed this strike as a mandate for the reversal of ongoing economic policies of LPG.
He said that the workers ranging from organized to unorganized sector, from industrial workers to agricultural workers participated in this strike in numbers more than 10 crore, and particularly the contract workers employed in PSUs and govt. departments have played a major role in this strike. Many states witnessed Bandh during this strike. This strike is a warning to the central and various state governments that the working people of this country will not tolerate these exploitative, pro-corporate and anti-worker policies, and in the days to come they will go ahead with heightened struggles.
The demands which the Striking workers are pressing include 1) concrete measures to contain price rise 2) concrete measures for creation of employment 3) Strict enforcement of all basic labour laws without any exception or exemption and stringent punitive measures for violations, 4) universal social security cover for the unorganized sector workers without any restriction and creation of a National Social Security Fund with adequate resources 5) Stoppage of disinvestment in central and state profit-making and socially strategic PSUs, 6) No Contractorisation of work of permanent/perennial nature and payment of wages and benefits to the contract workers at the same rate as available to the regular workers of the industry/establishment, 7) Amendment of Minimum Wages Act to ensure universal coverage irrespective of the schedules and fixation of statutory minimum wage at not less than Rs 10,000/- with indexation 8) Removal of all ceilings on payment and eligibility of Bonus, Provident Fund; Increase the quantum of gratuity, 9)Assured Pension for all, 10) Compulsory registration of trade unions within a period of 45 days and immediate ratification of the ILO Conventions nos 87 and 98.
The call was given by all the Central Trade Unions in the country and was endorsed by almost all the major Independent National Federations of employees and workers.
Massive response to the call of General Strike by the workers en masse visibly impacting almost all the sectors of the economy, viz., Coal, steel, petroleum, telecom, defence, banks, insurance, electricity, transport, port & dock, anganwadis, construction, brick-kilns, beedi etc., both in organized and unorganized sector is a fitting reply to the utter neglect and insensitivity of the Government towards the problems and miseries of crores of the working masses who are keeping the country’s economy running. This is also a signal that the working people and their unions would in no way accept such indifference and neglect on the part of the Govt. and carry forward their struggle to a higher pitch if their basic demands are not addressed by the Govt. through concrete remedial action.
Karnataka: AICCTU undertook an extensive and elaborate campaign around the all-India strike on 28 Feb. 2012. For the first time, the strike campaign in Karnataka was organized as a part of Joint committee of Trade Unions that comprised 10 central trade unions. In addition to that we also printed our own pamphlets explaining our political approach to the issues and also separate posters.
The tempo for the campaign was set by all trade union call of ‘Jail Bharo’ on 8th November. Our participation in state level convention on 30 January was also very impressive. The convention was addressed by national leaders all trade unions along with the state leaders.
Bangalore: We could make a better presence in the campaign in areas surrounding Electronic City, Information Technology Park Ltd (ITPL) and Yelahanka. We joined Bike rallies and other propaganda meetings. In the meantime, one particular MNC workers in readymix concrete industry in Bangalore joined our union and consequently, local CITU was not willing to work jointly with us and the local joint campaign got disrupted. It was also a blessing in disguise as it evoked a sense of challenge among our workers and we organized separate bike rally and also strike enforcing rally and public meeting on the day of strike. The local CITU’s refusal, in fact, resulted in voluntary mobilization of hundreds of workers in the strike rally. Workers marched through the streets of the bigger industrial belt of international capital in Bangalore and forced shut down of several companies where there was no union. The rally in surrounding areas of ITPL was very militant and culminated in a public meeting that was addressed by Com. Narayana Swamy, NCM, Somu, district secretary, Mani, treasurer, Govindaswamy, JS, Manjunath, district VP, Ashok, district JS, Sunil, JS and Kishore, Office secretary.
The rally at Veerasandra, near Electronic City was joined by AITUC workers and enforced strike in all factories where there was no union. The rallyists forced several companies to down their shutters and organized a public meeting at the end.
The rally and public meeting organized at the city centre was very militant and the traffic in the nerve centre of the city was thrown out of gear for more than 3 hours. Confrontation with the police in traffic regulation also resulted in mild lathi charge on some workers. CITU participated with full mobilization and few thousands of workers of all trade unions participated in the public meeting. Com. Shankar, all-India Vice President of AICCTU, Prasanna Kumar, state GS of CITU, Anantha Subba Rao, state GS of AITUC, Shivshankar, President of TUCC, Prakash, state leader of AIUTUC also addressed the gathering along with state leaders of other unions, HMS, BMS and INTUC. Com. Shankar called upon workers to rise in more militant struggles to give a fitting rebuff to the liberalization policies.
Koppal District: Here too, in spite of joint call and initiatives at state level, CITU decided to go alone in strike campaign. AICCTU organized independent campaign meetings at various industrial centres in the district including Gangavati, Karatagi and Koppal. The rally on 28th was attended by more than 500 workers from rice mills, construction, brick kilns and also auto technicians and taxi and tractor drivers.
Davanagere District: AICCTU organized an impressive rally at Harappanahalli and the public meeting at the end was addressed by CPI(ML) state secretary Ramappa among others. Hundreds of construction and agricultural labour participated in enforcing the strike.
AICCTU, for the first time organized a demonstration at Harihar second major town in the district. Prasad, NECM and Manju, NCM of AISA addressed the gathering along with other local leaders Beerappa and Basavaraj.
Mysore District: AICCTU organized a demonstration jointly with AITUC at HD Kote taluk and construction and agricultural labour participated in the demonstration.
Delhi: The highly successful strike in Delhi’s Wazirpur Industrial area is very encouraging for militant trade union and workers’ movement. Thousands of workers (at least five thousand) were out on the streets enforcing the strike with forceful assertion. They were highly energetic in their robust actions closing the factories. The workers also clashed with the police while encforcing the bandh in factories. AICCTU played key role in organizing the strike in this area. Mike campaign was undertaken by us for a full week prior to the strike. Students from AISA’s DU unit led by AIPWA’s National Secretary took active part in the week-long campaign. After the strike was successfully implemented, a huge mass meeting was held by AICCTU. Speakers from AITUC, CITU and UTUC also spoke in the meeting.
In Delhi’s Bhorgarh Industrial area too a very impressive rally of thousands of workers led by AICCTU and CITU was held and strike enforced. Comrade Surendra Panchal, CPI(ML)’s State Committee member led the campaign on our behalf.
In Jhilmil and Patparganj Industrial areas too it was mainly the AICCTU and CITU that led the strike and campaign. Comrade VKS Gautam, AICCTU’s Delhi President led the strike and campaign in these areas.
A notable development was the dharna in support of strike by the employees’ union of Lala Ramswarup (LRS) Institute of Respiratory Diseases and TB Hospital at Mehrauli. The union is affiliated to the AICCTU. Our members in MTNL and AICCTU affiliated union participated in a joint protest at Jantar mantar.
DTC was partially affected and mass meeting of 400-500 at took place at DTC headquarters. AICCTU General Secretary Comrade Swapan Mukherjee addressed the meeting among other central leaders of other central trade unions. At Okhla AICCTU took out a procession of 100 workers.
Puducherry: AICCTU, AITUC, CITU, INTUC, BMS LPF, TUCC, AIUTUC formed a state level joint action committee to carry out the 5 points charter of demands call to go on general strike on 28th. A week long campaign was conducted throughout Puducherry and Karaikal regions from 20-27 February. At Nine centres the workers of all above central TUs courted arrest in Puducherry.
In rural area at Villlianur, AICCTU blockaded the railway track, in which hundreds of workers took part and most of them were women. Construction and agricultural workers were also present. It was led by Comrade S Balasubramanian, State Secretary of CPI(ML). All were arrested and later released in the evening.
In Puducherry town nearly one hundred and twenty five workers of various factories courted arrest. In Puducherry and Karaikal BSNL, LIC, Bank employees participated in the strike. The strike was total. A major union of state government workers namely ‘Central Federation of government employees fully participated in the general strike and they took out a rally in the morning in Puducherry. Normal work was paralysed in UT of Puducherry.
Andhra Pradesh: Nine left parties held a dharna at Hyderabad and the leaders were arrested. Com. Murthy, Politburo member, was arrested from the Dharna. Nearly 100 workers took part in the dharna. In Khammam district of Andhra mainly in three mandals AICCTU held rallies. In Vijayawada, Krishna district and Visakapattnam Narasipetta rallies were held.
Odisha: CPI(ML) and AICCTU along with CITU, AITUC, AIUTUC, and HMS organised strike actions at Rayagada, Bhubaneswar, Rourkella, Kendrapara, Puri and Khurdha. Railway Sweepers Union joined at Bhubaneswar and Puri, autoworkers, Aanganwadi workers at Kendrapara and Zaro workers, Rickshaw pullers joined at Bhubaneswar along with other workers and transport workers’ union at Rayagda.
At Puri Comrade Ashok Pradhan was arrested along with Dilip Samal of East Coast Railway Sweeper Workers Union. Protest was held by Maa Kalijayee Motorboat Workers Union and CPI(ML) at Balugan. At Rourkella protest was jointly held with CITU and AITUC under the leadership of Comrade NK Mohanty, President of AICCTU Odisha. At many places our comrades were arrested by the Odisha police.
The strike was a huge success in the State as towns and businesses were completely closed. The railways was affected in a big way and petrol pumps, autos, bus services were out of operation and banks and insurance companies were closed including Nabard and RBI.
Chhattisgarh: The blockade of the Maroda Gate of the Bhilai Steel Plant (BSP) began early at 5:30 a.m. Here the AICCTU, AITUC, CITU, BMS, HMS and INTUC had jointly called the strike. Joint campaign was undertaken for the success of strike. Contract workers took active part in making the strike successful. The demonstration at this Gate was on till 3:30 p.m. led by TU leaders including Comrade Brijendra Tiwari. 90 percent of the SAIL Refractory Unit participated in the strike. Our members participated in the demonstrations at other four Gates also organised by other unions.
A demonstration was held at Bhilai Municipal Corporation. Prior to this the Bogda Bridge was blockaded at 5 a.m. The CMM Mazdoor Karyakarta Samiti held blockades at various points in industrial area that helped swell the number of striking workers. Workers at stone quarries in Raipur’s Bangoli-Mura participated in the strike and held rally.
500-600 workers employed at Welcome Distillery and Rayalseema Concrete Sleepers situated at Kargiroad Kota in Bilaspur participated in the strike and took out a rally before congregating at Mandi Ground for a mass meeting. The rally and meeting was led by AICCTU’s National Vice President and CMM’s President Comrade Bhimrao Bagde. A memorandum addressed to the President of India was handed over to the SDM.
Comrades from AIALA participated in the joint dharna in Bilaspur town. Comrade Lalan from AICCTU addressed the dharna.
400-500 workers of State Ware House and Central Ware House at Raipur participated in the strike and a rally.
Sanitation workers working as contract workers in Bhilai town participated fully in the strike despite the fact that the BSP administration and the contractors had tried to terrorise the workers.
Punjab: Contract workers of PGI, Chandigarh, affiliated to AICCTU, and mess workers of Punjab Engineering College, Sec. 16 Hospital Union, Sec. 32 Hospital Union, workers from health sector’s malaria department. The leaders of the hospital unions stated that they have been forced to go on strike by the continued apathy towards their issues by the administration and the govt. Brick-kiln and rural workers in Mansa and Sangrur led by AICCTU went on strike.
Andaman & Nicobar: AICCTU, CITU and BMS jointly conducted one week long street corner meetings and public meetings place to place propagating the 28th all-India Strike and staged one day Dharna at Tiranga Park, Port Blair. Thereafter a procession was also held through main Aberdeen Bazar to Secretariat gate, Port Blair and concluded the same there with the address by leaders of Central Trade Unions. BSNL and all the bank employees went on strike in A&N Islands.
Madhya Pradesh: At Gwalior, Nagar Nigam Karamchari Kalyan Morcha (municipal employees’welfare front) affiliated to AICCTU organised a rally and meeting at Bara. Gwalior was bandh on 28th. Comrade Rajaram, CCM, was present at the Bara meeting. In Bhind, Hamal workers and other Left TUs held a joint rally and meeting. More than 200 workers participated here.
Jharkhand: Thousands of workers affiliated to the Jharkhand Construction Workers’ Union (AICCTU-affiliated) started marching from the CPI(ML) State office and reached Commisioner’s office passing through the main streets. After handing over of memorandum there for Labour Minister the rally returned to Albert Ekka Square where a mass meeting was held.
Rural workers in Jharkhand participated in the strike enthusiastically at many places. Rallies were held in ten panchayats of Bagodar block in which thousands of people took part. Grand Trunk road was blockaded for two hours at Bagodar town. Rallies and meetings were held in five panchayats each of Saria and Birni blocks and each comprising hundreds of people. Rallies were also held in ten panchayats of Jamua and three of Dewari. Two places in Rajdhanwar and impressive rally at Gawan.
After a long gap an impressive rally and a public meeting was held at Gandeya Assembly constituency which was attended by senior Party leaders that included Party’s General Secretary Comrade Dipankar, CPI(ML) leader and MLA Comrade Vinod Singh, Politburo member Comrade DP Bakshi and other district and State leaders.
In Garhwa, where our Party leaders and members have been subjected to torture and fabricated cases resulting in arrests, protest march was held that turned into mass meeting at Ranka turn. Impressive rallies were held in Bhawnathpur to make the strike a success. At Chautha village in Hazaribagh’s Bishungarh, road was blockaded. Patratu block office was gheraoed by hundreds of Party workers. Demonstration was held in Gumla.
Mugma collieries (ECL) witnessed total strike. Strike in BCCL was nearly total. Partial strike (about 50 percent) in CCL Bermo due to anti-strike stance of BMS and INTUC at grassroot level and total opposition by the Dadai faction of INTUC. AICCTU led an effective campaign and several workers came forward spontaneously that made the strike successful. CCL Hazaribagh was completely affected by the strike. Partial strike in Bokaro Steel Plant, however about half of all contract workers went on strike. Banks and LIC were completely on strike all over Jharkhand.
Bihar: Agricultural workers struck work throughout the State and workers in Industrial areas around Patna went on strike. At Bhagalpur members of all the unions affiliated to the AICCTU- Bihar State Construction Workers’ Union, Kamgar Mahasangh, municipal employees, transport workers’ union and many others comprising about one thousand urban and rural poor took out rallies from three different locations in the city before merging at Kotwali square and marched to the Station through main areas of the city. Half of the participants of the rally were the domestic women workers. The rally was led by AICCTU’s district president and secretary Comrades SK Sharma and Mukesh Mukt respectively.
In the rural areas and villages AICCTU and AIALA jointly organised rallies and meetings that were led by local and district leaders. Here brick kiln workers went on strike.
Tamil Nadu: The workers of PRICOL, a major auto company in Coimbatore went on complete strike led by AICCTU.
More than eight thousand workers of the All India Agricultural Labourers’ Association (AIALA) struck work in over 80 panchayats covering eight districts of Tamil Nadu. In Tiruvallur district the strike was led jointly by AICCTU and AIALA. NREGA related irregularities was one of the important issues here for AIALA strike. The propaganda had reached about fifty thousand workers.
Assam: Besides the strike, contract workers affiliated to AICCTU went on strike at Air Force Station and Army Cantonment area. AICCTU activists and workers were arrested in front of the DC office in Silchar.
Rajasthan: In Jaipur a joint rally of 2500 was organised. In Udaipur AICCTU played major role in organizing raliies and strike. In Ajmer and Pratapgarh also we participated in joint rallies and strike.
West Bengal: Strike was very successful in WB.
AIALA’s all India Rural Strike: As part of the nationwide rural strike call given by the AIALA, meetings were held in more than four hundred panchayats. Demonstrations were held at 35 blocks and roads were blockaded at several places.
Hosiery Movement Update: Bowing down to the militant workers' struggle and a successful industrial strike, hosiery factory owners in Shobhabazar conceded to raising overtime wages by a significant amount (about Rs 30/day). Many of the factories which hitherto paid below-minimum wages to their workers, have started paying minimum wages now. The victory of our movement, albeit partial, proves once again that the working class can snatch away their demands only through protracted struggle. AICCTU has also decided to survey 400 factories of the area, so that legal battle too could be initiated.