Two hundred thousand workers march to parliament in India

24.02.2011

In a historic March to Parliament on February 23, 2011 around 200,000 working people of India rallied in New Delhi demanding control on price rise, strict enforcement of labour laws, linkages of employment protection with the stimulus package, universalisation of social security, enhanced social security fund and to stop privatisation of central public sector enterprises.

INDIA: The working people of India represented by all the major Central Trade Unions (CTUs) and National Employees' Federations have assembled in the national capital on February 23, 2011 to urge the Indian Parliament to ensure urgent corrective policy measures by the Government of India to mitigate the immense sufferings of the workers and the people owing to continuing rise in prices of the essential commodities, rampant violation of labour laws and attack on labour rights, rising unemployment, reckless contractorisation, casualisation and outsourcing.

The CTUs demanded concrete action for universalisation of social security benefits for entire unorganised workers without any restrictions on entitlement and allocation of adequate funds for the "National Social Security Fund". CTUs also urged the government to stop disinvestment of shares in public sector units.

In the memorandum to the Hon'ble Speaker, Lok Sabha, Parliament of India CTUs stated the Government of India is ignoring overwhelming protests of the working people and on the contrary relentlessly pursuing policies that accentuate price rise namely deregulation of petroleum prices, continuing indulgence and patronization to speculative trade in commodity market and allowing a huge stock pile of food grains in the Food Corporation of India (FCI) to rot.

CTUs termed the Government of India's argument, that 'increase in the earnings of the people is responsible for price rise' is a cruel joke and stated that owing to rising prices along with increasing job losses and unemployment and reduced earnings through mass-scale contracting and casualisation of the employment, masses of the people are facing a sharp decline in per-capita availability of food grains and other basic commodities. CTUs also condemned flawed government policies that created such a distortion in the economy that despite increase in GDP growth rate, workers' share in value added in manufacturing has been consistently declining.

CTUs and Employees' Federations solicited Hon'ble Speaker's urgent intervention to address following demands, so that the Government is prevailed upon to take expeditious remedial measures:

  • Price rise of essential commodities to be contained through appropriate corrective distributive measures like universal Public Distribution System (PDS) and containing speculation in commodity market.
  • Strict enforcement of all basic labour laws or stringent punitive measures for violation of labour laws.
  • Concrete proactive measures to be taken for linkage of employment protection in the recession stricken sectors with the stimulus package to the industrialists and creation of jobs by augmenting public investment in infrastructure.
  • Steps to be taken for removal of all restrictive provisions based on "poverty line" in respect of eligibility coverage of the schemes under the Unorganised Workers Social Security Act 2008 and creation of national Fund for the Unorganised Sector to provide for a National Floor Level Social Security to all unorganised workers including the contract / casual workers.
  • Stop disinvestment of shares of Central Public Sector Enterprises (CPSEs).

All these demands were unanimously formulated by all the CTUs and Employees' Federations during the All India Convention of Workers held on September 14 2009. These demands were pressed on many occasions through "All India Protest Day" on October 28, 2009; massive dharma before parliament as well as state capitals and industrial centres on December 16, 2009; countrywide Satygraha / Jail Bharo on March 5, 2010 in which one million workers courted arrest throughout the country and massive General Strike on September 7, 2010 by around 100 million workers.

Workers from major central trade unions INTUC, AITUC, HMS, CITU, AIUTUC, TUCC, ACCTU and UTUC along with Independent Workers' and Employees' Federations participated in the March to Parliament.