May Day: Karawal Nagar Workers hold a Workers’ Rights Rally

On May 1, the Karawal Nagar Mazdoor Union, Stree Mazdoor Sangathan and Bigul Mazdoor Dasta organised a ‘Mazdoor Adhikaar Rally’ (Workers’ Rights Rally). The struggle of the unorganised workers of Karawal Nagar Yamuna Pushta started 4 years ago in 2008, when a union of almond workers was formed. In 2009, the Almond Workers Union (Badaam Mazdoor Union) organised a big strike which continued for more than two weeks and compelled the almond factory owners to compromise. This was one of the largest strikes of unorganised workers that Delhi has seen in the recent past. This strike of almond workers saw participation of informal/unorganised workers toiling in diverse occupations, like rickshaw pullers, construction workers, street vendors, etc. Some of them were in fact family members of the women almond workers, while others lived in the same area and came in support of the almond workers strike as a symbol of solidarity. In the next two years, the Badaam Mazdoor Union fought on a number of issues, organised protests against police oppression, and organised movements against the oppression by petty contractors. Most of these issues did not belong particularly to the almond workers, rather they were issues of all the unorganised workers of the area, irrespective of their occupations. The leaders of the Badaam Mazdoor Union realised that de facto, the union has become a union of the informal/unorganised workers of the area. So in 2011, the Badaam Mazdoor Union was transformed into the Karawal Nagar Mazdoor Union (KMU). KMU was formed as the neighbourhood-based union of the workers of Karawal Nagar.

On the May Day 2011, around 2 thousand workers from the Karawal Nagar Yamuna Pushta area gathered on Jantar Mantar under the leadership of KMU, along with thousands of other workers from different parts of Delhi, as well as, UP and Punjab. This protest was organised by different unions and workers’ organisations under the banner of ‘Workers’ Charter Movement’, which is still going on. KMU has been doing an experiment in organising workers in the era of Globalisation, when working class is dispersed or scattered at the shop floor level, while at the same time, it is concentrated in terms of the neighbourhoods where workers live. KMU believes that along with factory-based unions, there is a need to organise workers on the neighbourhood basis. Without strong neighbourhood-based organisation, area-wide organisation across factories, occupations and sectors, even the strong factory-based movements cannot hope to win.

KMU is planning to hold a huge protest march against the non-implementation of government’s policies for unorganised sector workers and different labour laws pertaining to the informal sector workers, oppression by the police and goons of contractors and factory owners, and the non-regularisation of the industrial units functioning in the Karawal Nagar area. The May Day rally ended in a meeting at the office of KMU in Mukund Vihar, Karawal Nagar, in which the plan of this wider march was discussed.

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