India: Unions observe 26 May as BLACK DAY for Indian Democracy

This all India strike aims at denouncing Modi’s failure to protect the India population against the Covid-19 pandemic. The action will also visibilise workers’ demands intrinsically linked to the ITUC call for a New Social Contract with labour rights, equality, inclusion and access to universal social protection for all workers, including migrant workers and workers in the informal economy.

By Chandra Shekar, Organising Secretary, All India INTUC

The call to observe 26 May as a Black Day is because the Modi Government is acting in a blatantly irresponsible manner in the face of the terrible second wave of the Corona pandemic, taking advantage of his party’s majority in the Lok Sabha (India’s Parliament).

Modi’s government has simply disowned its responsibility in tackling the Corona pandemic and asked the States to provide the medical help to the bewildered population: shortages of vaccine doses, oxygen, hospital beds, and cremation facilities are alarming.

In addition, irresponsible announcements of vaccinating 18-44 age group, only to be withdrawn subsequently, shows that the Government is completely in the dark about what needs to be done in this hour of crisis. There is a criminal negligence on the part of the Government towards front-line workers fighting against the virus.

The Government is actually using the pandemic period to push through legislations that are tailored only for the benefit of the corporates, be it the three Farm Laws or the four Labour Codes or privatisation of everything in the Government or Public Sector such as Railways, Port and Dock assets, and in the Coal. Of the 40 blocks that were recently auctioned, 39 out of them went to big corporation groups such as Adani, Vedanta etc. Six Airports were sold on throw away prices to private players. All production units in defence and railways to be corporatized. Banks, insurance and even retail to be opened to Foreign Direct Investements. More than 100 Public Service Undertakings are planned to be ”monetised” - a new term coined for privatisation of these undertakings.

It is the toiling people in the Unorganised Sector, including migrant workers, who need life saving support in terms of food grains, cash subsidy and employment. It is the duty of the Government to mobilise resources for this gigantic task: using stocks of the Food Corporation India, taxing the rich, insuring front-line workers, providing funds for progressive labour and social reforms and so on. The Government has simply become paralytic on all these fronts. Instead, it is passing laws that nobody has demanded, while refusing to concede any popular demands such as enactment of a law guaranteeing Minimum Support Price for the Farm Produce, among many others.

While the Government has no funds to tackle Covid pandemic, it is shamelessly going ahead with projects such as building a new Parliament Building, floating non-transparent funds such as ”Prime Minister CARES fund”, electoral bonds, etc. And at the same time, it behaves in the most undemocratic way, arresting anyone for criticising the Government, refusing to hold Tripartite Consultation, blatantly using Constitutional Agencies to frighten and browbeat any opposition, using State Governors against political opponents, engineering defections and undermining elected state governments with the use of money power and use of these Agencies. This list can be made longer.

It is time to call a spade a spade. Indian unions will begin by observing 26th May as the Black Day for Indian Democracy, wearing Black Badges, putting up Black Flags. We resolve on this day, not to rest till we achieve our demands, not to rest till a message is driven home that the toiling people will not remain passive bystanders, watching the Modi Government do as they please.

Workers demand:

  • Free Covid-19 vaccine for all.
  • Strengthen the public health system at all levels.
  • Immediate help to all unorganised/informal sector workers and unemployed people in terms of free food grains and cash subsidy of Rs.7500 per month.
  • Repeal three Farm Laws, withdraw Electricity (Amendment) Bill, 2021, enact law guaranteeing Minimum Support Price of farm produce
  • Withdraw four Labour Codes along with draft central rules and convene Indian Labour Conference immediately.
  • Stop the policy of privatisation/corporatisation of Public Service Undertakings and Government departments.
  • Withdraw all arbitrary suspension of 38 Labour Laws for a period of 3 years by the states ruled by BJP and its allies, openly violating the International Labor Standards i,e Freedom of Association C-87, violation of Collective Bargaining C-98, C-144 Tripartite Meeting and Consultations etc. All the Affiliates of 10 Central Trade Unions and all likeminded Free Independent Unions/Federations to be ready for indefinite direct action in future. Mobilize the rank and file of the unions and the people to update them about Anti-Labour,Anti-Worker ,Anti-Social,Anti Farmers, Anti People, Anti National policies of the Central Government of India.