Maruti Suzuki Workers Union: On the Automobile Workers Convention (December 9)

This convention is being organized to express the legitimacy of the struggle waged by the workers of Maruti Suzuki, Manesar in the last one and a half years under the leadership of Maruti Suzuki Workers Union, for which we have come under constant attack, conspiracy and misinformation campaign by the management aided by the government and administration of Haryana.

As you all know, our struggle in Maruti Suzuki Manesar started with our demands for our legitimate trade union and constitutional rights. But just when we raised our voice in demanding our right to Union formation, and also raised the question mark on the illegal practice of contract worker system in the factory, the management started a full-fledged attack on us workers, and as we learnt during our struggle, the company management will go to any lengths to crush our legitimate voices.

In the space of these one and a half years, we have closely seen the real anti-worker face of those in power. We have seen how the government of Haryana and its administration has openly colluded with the management of Maruti Suzuki to safeguard the interests of Maruti Suzuki company-like big capitalists, to wage a battle, nay a war, against the workers. We have no doubt now, after having seen all this, that the incident of 18th July has been orchestrated to serve this war against the workers.

Not satisfied with this, the government machinery has for the last 4 months after 18th July 2012, ensured full cooperation with the management of Maruti Suzuki and made sure that we are given no space at all to raise our voice any further, first with police torture and even shrinking all legal avenues open to us. The 149 workers languishing in Gurgaon Central Jail for more than 4 months now have all the legal right to getting bail, but the state has put all its weight to ensure that they are denied bail and continue to be treated as criminals. On 4th December 2012, all 15 workers (mostly contract workers, who do not even have their names in the original FIR) were denied bail, when all evidence suggested otherwise. But this kind of arrogant and corrupt attitude of the management and the government has only made our resolve to wage our legitimate struggle even stronger.

During the entire phase of our struggle, we have learnt that this kind of corrupt antidemocratic worker attitude and open flouting of all labour laws is not only limited to our Maruti Suzuki but this is the general condition of all workers in the entire auto sector of industry. So to raise the demand of Union formation and to point out the illegal practice of contract workers system under which contract workers in the entire industrial belt in the NCR region are exploited, all of us workers must be united and highlight the legitimacy of our struggle in society. We know that this is a difficult road, full of challenges, but having seen and suffered the inhuman and illegal attack and suppression of our voices and demands, we are accepting this challenge and take a vow to take our ideas and to all the workers of the entire NCR industrial belt.

We once again reiterate our demand to immediately take back all terminated workers and release all 149 arrested workers of Maruti Suzuki Manesar. We want to return a healthy working atmosphere to the company through negotiation and dialogue, but on respectable and dignified terms and not on the conditions of slavery that is being imposed on us. Along with this, we are also raising our voice against the open loot by capitalists in Haryana and flouting of labour laws, and resolve to wage our legitimate struggle by uniting all auto workers of the region. As part of this, we are organizing a
Convention to make manifest our resolve, and call upon all members of the press to this Convention.

We demand that:

1. In the permanent nature of work in the auto sector in Gurgaon-Manesar- Dharuhera-Bawal-Faridabad-Noida-Ghaziabad industrial region, completely abolish the illegal contract worker system by the year 2013. Till they are not
made permanent, all workers in the auto sector in this region should be given minimum wage of Rs.15,000.

2. All permanent workers in the auto sector must be given minimum wage of Rs.25000.

3. Unions must be formed in the auto belt industrial region. Within 45 days of application for registration of Trade Union, the concerned labour department must ensure the registration of the Trade Union with due process.

4. The High Court order in favour of workers of Eastern Medikit must be immediately implemented and the illegal lockout be ended. Take back all the workers of Eastern Medkit and ensure payment of due wages.

5. Along with all the 546 illegally terminated workers of Maruti Suzuki Manesar, all the contract workers must be immediately taken back to work.

6. All the arrested workers of Maruti Suzuki Manesar must be immediately released, the false cases withdrawn and stop the repression and torture of workers.

Provisional Working Committee
MARUTI SUZUKI WORKERS UNION

Program details

Date: 9 December 2012; 11am to 6pm.
Place: Ambedkar Bhavan, Panchkuiyan Road,
near Jhandewalan Metro Station,
New Delhi

Contact: Imaan Khan- 09467704883, Ramnivas- 08901127876, Omprakash-
08607154232, Mahavir-09560564754, Yogesh- 08510043143, Katar Singh-
09728778870, Rajpal- 0955542517

Blind Workers rally against labour rights violation by “welfare NGOs”

On the occasion of the World Disabled Day Blind Workers took out a huge rally at the Parliament Street against violation of labour rights by NGOs and Government connivance.

Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment warned of intensified agitation and struggle if it does not provides employment at the earliest.

On the occasion of World Disability Day, blind workers under the banner of the Blind Workers’ Union took out a huge rally of blind workers regarding the entrenched problems faced by the disabled in the labour market, and towards the unfulfilled promises of the Social Justice Ministry to provide alternative employment to the disabled (in particular, the retrenched workers of National Federation of the Blind) in government undertakings. It is to be noted that since November of 2011, the blind workers have been protesting the retrenchment of several blind workers by the National Federation of the Blind (NFB). This NGO retrenched the workers because they were speaking out against denial of minimum wages and other basic labour rights in the Training and Rehabilitation Centres (TRCs) run by the NGO. The blind workers have highlighted again and again how the Federation has been violating all statutory labour laws at its different production units. In fact, rather than minimum wages, the workers employed across NFB production units were being forced to work on the basis of a production-wage structure, which provides them barely Rs. 2600/- per month. This was way below the rate of minimum wages. The protest also raised the need for the Government to provide alternative employment for the disabled. A delegation of blind workers also submitted a memorandum of demands to the Ministry of Social Justice.

In the memorandum we raised the concerns of the blind workers and how they have been forced to become beggars in the absence of any employment. Also it is deeply disturbing that despite making several representations to the ministry these blind workers still await justice. For example, the Ministry has yet to take stern action against the National Federation of the Blind (NFB), which has entrenched large number of blind workers from its various Training and Rehabilitation Centres (TRCs) in October 2011. Neither has the concerned Ministry fulfilled its assurances of providing alternative employment to all the blind workers retrenched by the National Federation of the Blind at the government sponsored NGO, Arunim. Furthermore, discussion on and clauses in the pending Bill on the Rights of Persons with Disability (2011) continues to lack any serious engagement on the question of protecting the labour and economic rights of disabled persons employed in the private sector (i.e. by NGOs and private businesses). For us, such failure of intervention by the Government amounts to reducing World Disability Day to a day of pomp and show with no actual commitment towards upliftment of disabled workers through protection of their basic labour and economic rights like the right to gainful employment, right to equal remuneration, right to daily minimum wage, right to the eight hour work day, etc.

We also pointed out during the rally that our struggle is not just against the NFB, but against the overall exploitation of blind workers across the country by private companies and NGOs. It is an undeniable fact that in the interest of availing of certain benefits like tax exemption for employing persons with disability, the private sector is known to employ yet brutally exploit disabled persons. The arbitrary hiring and firing practices, unregulated working hours, etc. prevalent in the private sector, amount to a serious breach of social justice, which is why the blind workers have been approaching the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment. More importantly, the workers realize that the failure of successive governments to provide adequate employment to the blind community is the main reason why blind workers are dependent on the highly exploitative private sector.Hence, our struggle is based on the fundamental right to a livelihood—a right the Government is to protect and uphold. The specific demands that the blind workers put forth in the memorandum include the following:

(i)                 Inclusion of a special section in the long pending Bill on the Rights of Persons With Disability (2011), which would safeguard the economic rights of blind workers employed in the private sector. For example, the Bill should include provisions to the effect that bodies violating basic labour rights will be penalized to the effect that NGOs indulging in such violation will face the cancellation of their registration;

(ii)               That the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment tables a concrete plan of greater job creation for blind persons in the public sector. It is only with the provision of more government jobs that the dependence of blind workers on exploitative private companies and corrupt NGOs can be overcome;

(iii)              That the central government stops funding NGOs who fail to comply with the country’s statutory labour laws while employing people;

(iv)             That the central government ensures that blind workers are given parity at workplaces and are paid minimum wages;

(v)                That the central government ensures all statutory labour laws are implemented in production units run by “social service” organizations like the NFB, as well as in workplaces run by other employers;

(vi)              That the central government takes over the production units run by NGOs like NFB, in consequence of such NGOs repetitively failing to provide proper employment and conducive work conditions for physically handicapped workers;

(vii)           That the retrenched workers of NFB be provided immediate employment either in Arunim or any other government-funded institution/workshop.

The blind workers have warned that the ministry must take immediate steps to provide employment. The inaction of the ministry will compel us to intensify our agitation and movement to expose the Government’s lack of commitment towards protecting disabled workers’ statutory rights.

Thanking you,

Alok Kumar                                                                                                         Ramnath

(On Behalf of Blind Workers Union)                                                       (On Behalf of Blind Workers Union)

Maruti Suzuki Workers Union: The First Day of the Hunger Strike

The terminated workers of Maruti Suzuki, Manesar plant launched their mass hunger strike today in front of the District Magistrate Office, Gurgaon demanding an impartial inquiry into the incident of 18th July, immediate release of all arrested workers and the withdrawal of all the false charges put on them, immediate reinstatement of all terminated workers, including the contract workers.

The 149 workers in Bhondsi jail, arrested after the July 18 incident also embarked on a parallel hunger strike despite repeated threats of torture by the jail authorities since yesterday. They were threatened to be beaten up, separated and removed to different jails across the state, but have continued their hunger strike since early morning, even boycotting the early morning tea.

Majority of workers in the Manesar plant were also planning a solidarity action of lunch boycott. But just as they embarked on the solidarity action, immense pressure was put by the management and a heavy deployment of around 1000 police was brought in, in the already fortified company premises, to ‘dissuade’ them. The Union President and workers from Gurgaon plant also joined in solidarity with the workers in front of the DC Office, Gurgaon.

From the very beginning, the police and the administration vehemently displayed their anti-worker attitude. In gross violation of the democratic right to protest, the police dismantled the tent and other amenities (eg. Water tanker and sound system) that the workers had set up for the peaceful sit-in event in front of the mini-secretariat. The workers remained determined and vowed to continue the protest as planned in assertion of their rights. In response, the police continued its attack on the workers and detained about 40-50 workers who were packed off to Bhondsi thana. It is only after continued pressure from the workers and the unions present did the police release the detained workers. However, 2 members of the Provisional Working Committee, O.P.Jat and Ramnivas, have been illegally detained inside the police station for so-called further questioning and enquiry. We fear that, as the Haryana police on orders from the company has done, will again put false cases on the workers.

However, despite all these attempts at disruption and intimidation by the police, the first day of the dharna has proved a success and the hunger strike was continued at the decided venue. Representatives from different trade unions and other organizations across India came in solidarity to the protest and spoke at length about the immense injustice faced by terminated/jailed Maruti workers, the highly exploitative working conditions of workers across the country and committed themselves to taking this struggle forward. The speakers emphasized how the united struggle of the Maruti workers is very crucial and that it has served as an inspiration to workers across the country. The assembly was addressed by leaders of various factory unions in the Gurgaon-Dharuhera-Bawal industrial belt, including Rajkumar of RICO Employees Union (Dharuhera), Jaspal Rana of HMS, Anil of AITUC, Satbir of CITU, Animesh of IFTU and Shivmangal Sidhankar of ICTU. Workers’ Rpresentatives from Pragatisheel Cement Shramik Sangh, Chattisgarh (like Kaladas) and Sangrami Shramik Karmachari Union, Hindustan Motors, West Bengal (Amitava Bhattacharyya), as well workers from Ghaziabad, Noida, Delhi, and Uttarakhand also spoke in solidarity.

The hunger strike will continue throughout the night, and tomorrow. There is a massive rally planned for 4pm tomorrow that will culminate at the local minister’s house, which is expected to be attended in large numbers by students, teachers, other members of the civil society and workers from across the industrial belt.

Press Statement: Maruti Suzuki Workers Union

The Maruti Suzuki Workers Union (MSWU) is anguished at the recent developments in Maruti Suzuki plant, IMT Manesar where the management has resorted to anti-worker and anti-Union activities in a pre-planned manner leading to violence and the closure of the factory yesterday.

We have had a long tough struggle with the strong unity of our permanent and contract workers to establish and register our Union last year, and had recently as of April 2012 submitted our Charter of Demands to the management of Maruti Suzuki, and the process of negotiation for wages and other demands was underway. However the management has done its utmost to derail the process since long and is trying to break the back of the spirit of unity of the workers and the legitimacy of the Union.

It is due to this, and continuing with this vindictive attitude and in a pre-planned manner, yesterday, the afternoon of 18th July, a supervisor in the shop floor abused and made casteist comments against a dalit worker of the permanent category, which was legitimately protested by the worker. Instead of taking action against the said supervisor, the management immediately suspended the worker concerned without any investigation as was demanded by the workers. When the workers along with Union representatives went to meet the HR to demand against the supervisor and revoke the unjust suspension of the worker, the HR officials flatly refused to hear our arguments, and it was in no mood to resolve the issue amicably.

When the negotiation was going on with the leaders of the Union inside the office, the management called in the entry of hundreds of bouncers on its payroll from outside the plant to attack the workers, and blocked the exit. This is completely an illegal vindictive action in the spirit of conspiracy to corner us into submission even as our demands and methods are legitimate and peaceful. The exit gates were closed by the security on behest of the management and the bouncers brutally attacked the workers with sharp weapons and arms. They, joined by some of the managerial staff and police later, beat up a number of workers who have had to be hospitalised with serious injuries. The bouncers, who are anti-social elements on hire, also destroyed company property and set fire to a portion of the factory. The gates were later opened to oust the workers and enforce a lockout by the company.

We have the workers and the company’s welfare in mind and have worked towards it after the resolution of the dispute last year, and to blame the current violence on us is unjust, which should be properly investigated. We are still keen to dialogue with the company and want to sit with the company management and the government labour department to amicably resolve the matter and restore industrial peace in the factory.

Ram Meher
President, Maruti Suzuki Workers Union (MSWU)

High Cut-Offs Burnt by Government School Students

Sujit Kumar & Dinesh Kumar, KRANTIKARI YUVA SANGATHAN (KYS), DELHI UNIT OF ALL INDIA REVOLUTIONARY YOUTH ORGANISATION, T-44, Near Gopal Dairy, Baljeet Nagar, New Delhi-110008. Ph. : 9312654851, 9313343753

High Cut-Offs Burnt by Government School Students!
Government School Students Demand 80% Reservation in Government-Funded Institutes and Universities!
Government School Students and their Parents Agitated over the Fact that Cheap Public Funded Education is Beyond Their Reach!
An Open-Letter is also sent to HRD Ministry for Immediate Intervention!

Today (June 26) a large number of government school students, their parents and progressive individuals protested against the high cut-off for admission in Delhi University. The colleges of DU declared their first cut-off for admission to various courses on Tuesday. With this the wait is formally over as far as the procedure to get oneself admitted in a college was concerned. However getting a seat secured in a college/course still remained a distant dream for many as the cut-offs have sky-rocketed beyond the expectations. However this is not something which is unique to this years’ cut-off. Every year cut-offs are so high that government school students are not able to get a seat in the institutes of higher learning. Our organization firmly believes that the cut-offis nothing but a calculated policy to keep the higher education beyond the reach of students from government schools, an overwhelming majority of whom come from socio-economically deprived backgrounds. These students have also sent an open-letter to HRD Ministry for immediate intervention.

It is important to note that the higher cut-offs eliminates the chances of government school students in the institutes of higher learning and the only recourse left to them is to do some technical certificate and diploma courses and become a source of cheap labour in the market. Also interesting is the fact that the government has not only continued with the dual education system but has kept the same cut-off for government and private schools.It is an undeniable fact that students from private schools with better teaching and coaching facilities get higher marks and the domain of government funded higher education becomes virtually theirs as there are a very limited number of seats. Whereas the students from government schools always have to kill their ‘ambition’ without anyone noticing the fact that the race was unequal from the start. The bad result of these government school students is a result of the larger policy issue. Most of the government schools students lack basic facilities and have insufficient number of teachers (mostly in science and commerce courses) which is magnified by their home environment as most of these students are first generation learners and mostly live in a single rented room with the entire family. The unavailability of sufficient teachers forces the students to go for unregulated tuitions which not only creates havoc of their career but promotes the privatization of education. It is high time that government should undertake its responsibility of ensuring that a large section of students is not denied higher education due to loopholes in the policy. We demand an immediate enactment of a policy that provides marks relaxation/reservation to students of the government schools in the publically funded institutes of higher learning. We do understand that the reservation cannot be a permanent solution. Therefore the government must abolish the dual system of education with private schools students with all sorts of facilities getting the fruits of cheap higher education on the one hand and on the other the government school students from socio-economically deprived background and lack of good learning facilities remaining outside the domain of higher learning. We also demand that the government should increase the amount of budget spent on higher education for the children of working masses.

It is to be noted that in India the number of students who go for higher education are abysmally low. Only 7 percent of the students who pass 12th standard go for higher education. Even these seven percent students do not get to study the courses and colleges of their choice, and only a very small number of students from them get seats in regular colleges. Most of the students end up doing their study through correspondence or distance learning. In Delhi University there are only 54000 seats whereas 146000 have applied for admission. Thus around a lakh students will be denied admissions. It is important to note that these students are aspirants yet they will not be given admission due to less number of seats. Isn’t it ironic that even from a small number aspirants a large number is denied admission. Most of students who are denied admission are from government schools and are first generation learners. Thus denying them admission eliminates their scope for upward mobility.

High cut-offs and less number of seats are problematic in many ways. For example if there are less number of seats overall, the reserve seats will be lower. Thus reservation which was a constructive policy to bring out Dalits from the villages and traditional occupations would remain an empty box as a large number of students will not get a seat. For example in Delhi University there are 12000 odd seats reserved for SC/ST candidates whereas the number of applicants are around 24000 i.e. double the number of seats. Thus a large number of students from the reserve category are forced to go back to their villages and continue with traditional occupations. This would deny not only upward mobility but also makes Dalit students prone to caste oppression and atrocities in the villages.

We demand:

1. 80% reservation for government school students in public funded institutes and universities.
2. Immediate increase in number of seats in institutes of higher learning.
3. Increase in the amount of budget spent on education.
4. Abolition of the dual education system.
5. Hostel facilities for all the students from socio-economically deprived background.

Delhi Press Release on Nonadanga and Urban Struggles (Protest Demonstration, April 25)

Halt eviction drives of urban slums and colonies!
Uphold the struggle of the toilers for the right to land!
Militant resistance in Nonadanga long live!!

Comrades, we are witnessing today the militant resistance of slum-dwellers of Nonadanga against the eviction drive of the Kolkata Metropolitan Development Authority (KMDA) through brute police force. Nonadanga presents us with the determination of the urban poor and working class to constitute an alternative form of social, political and economic power. The residents of Nonadanga have refused to budge from the site, have put up temporary shelters and a community kitchen, and are confronting the police everyday with their bare hands and their indomitable will, trying to hold on to whatever little they are left with. Since April 11, 5 comrades under Ucched Pratirodh Committee have persisted with a fast-unto-death in the site for 12 days with undeterred support of the entire slum, and beyond. Reconstruction and rebuilding of the demolished houses are being undertaken by them.

Nonadanga is a paradigm of struggle and unity that must be generalised across Kolkata, West Bengal and beyond. For, it’s only through the eruption of a hundred, thousand, million Nonadangas across the country – that the working class will be able to effectively pose its might and vision against the prevailing hegemony of neo-liberalism and its authoritarian political executive. In the absence of such a countrywide generalisation of urban resistance, the working masses of this country, including the residents of Nonadanga, have no hope in hell.

We are witnessing in India today, a ground preparing for a rising tide of urban upsurge. However much the ruling classes seek to dazzle the working people with the shine of their developmentist fables, corporate parks and election promises, they cannot hide from us the violence that is intrinsic to this process of capitalist ‘development’. Even as the agrarian crisis daily pushes the peasantry from villages to the cities as a proletarianised mass, capital is busy robbing this ever-growing population of urban workers of its bare necessities such as living wages, adequate land, decent housing and clean drinking water by putting up ever-heightening enclosures of rent and user-charges. Not just that. The political executive of capital does not flinch from turning the misery it produces into an opportunity for further accumulation. Even the demand for rehabilitation is used by neo-liberalism, more often than not, to carry out yet another assault on the reproduction of labour-power. The increase in distance between the place of residence and the source of livelihood that most resettlement and rehabilitation process imposes on the evicted slum-dwellers further devalues their labour-power by lengthening their average labour-day. Worse, any murmur of dissent against such accumulation by dispossession is brutally crushed by the state in order to ensure that the value of our labour-power can be progressively diminished even as the rate of extraction of surplus value is simultaneously enhanced and capitalist class power is reinforced.

The ongoing struggle against forcible eviction of slum-dwellers in Nonadanga, Kolkata, has revealed precisely that. On March 30, 2012, the KMDA, with the full support of the Trinamool Congress-led West Bengal government and its police force, bulldozed and burnt down the houses of over 200 families in the shantytown of Nonadanga in the name of ‘development’ and ‘beautification’. These people, who have lost their homes and hearths, are those whose cheap labour is ‘legally’ exploited to run the economy of the entire city. They are the toilers of unending nights and days, informal-sector workers and unemployed battling precarious living conditions. Among them are either those who were resettled here after being evicted from various canal banks across the city, or those whom the Cyclone Aila (2009) and the farm crisis uprooted from villages in the Sunderbans and other parts of the state respectively.

The state (and the corporate media), acting on behalf of capitalist land sharks eyeing this prime location in the city, are hell-bent on portraying these people as ‘illegal encroachers’. It has unleashed police and ‘legal’ repression, on an everyday basis, on all those who have been trying to resist this. A march of residents, under the banner of Ucched Pratirodh Committee (Resistance-to-Eviction Committee), was brutally lathicharged by the police on April 4, and again a sit-in demonstration four days later (April 8th) was violently broken up and 67 people arrested. Subsequent meetings and rallies held in solidarity with the movement on April 9 and 12 were attacked by goons and hundreds of activists were arrested by the police. Seven activists of various mass and democratic rights organisations, which stood in support of the Nonadanga movement, are either in jail or in police remand till April 26. Cases under Sections 353, 332, 141, 143, 148 and 149 of the IPC have been slapped on them. One of them, Debolina Chakraborty, has even been charged under the draconian Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA). During a court hearing on April 12, a prosecution team of 40 lawyers made a concerted bid to implicate them in a slew of false cases and paint them as ‘anti-national’, opening earlier ‘Nandigram cases’, even going so far as to claim that Nonadanga was used for ‘stockpiling arms and ammunition’. We remember that this Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool government came to power using the anger of the people over the Singurs and Nandigrams of the previous CPI(M) government to its parliamentary ends. It is they who are now using the instruments of repression at their disposal in a hurry to prove themselves as faithful lapdogs of their class masters.

Comrades, Nonadanga has shown us the way. For, the sword of eviction hangs not just on a Nonadanga, or for that matter a Bhalaswa (Delhi). Today in India, 256 lakh people are homeless or live in abject conditions in slums, and this number is progressively on the rise. Forget jobs or providing decent education, the state is retreating from all its responsibilities of providing us with the cost of living and reproduction. Evicting us from our homes has become the norm, as the cities are restructured according to the needs of the ruling classes. In Delhi, Shiela Dixit’s Congress-led government has drawn up a list of 44 colonies to be evicted in the next few months- 33 in the first phase. The criteria for being allotted the meagre government flats is possession of voter identity card, aadhar card and ration card as of 2007, and a capacity to make a down-payment of Rs 80,000. We are thrown into these legalisms even as we suffer the already inadequate housing and water situation. Even in the six resettlement colonies in Delhi, the conditions are horrendous. When one of our comrades from Bhalaswa presented Delhi CM Shiela Dixit with a bottle of water from her area, the CM was at first deceived by the colour of the water to think that she was being offered Pepsi-cola to quench her thirst. People living in slums in various parts of the city are the ones who make the city what it is, who make the super-profits of the capitalists possible. It is these people who become an embarrassment for the government, whichever party is in power, and whatever their false election promises. We remember the spate of demolitions which was the run-up to the Commonwealth games 2010, and how the political managers of capital attempted to hide our ‘dirty’ dwellings and crush our then disunited voices of protest. This continues daily, even today. On 20th April 2012, the DDA with over 2000 police force, attempted to demolish and evict slum-dwellers from Gayatri Colony near Anand Parbat industrial area in Delhi, but were forced to retreat faced with the unity and resistance of the residents.

Even here in Delhi, we have daily struggled on the streets for our rights and demands. We have, however, also been disunited owing to our precarious existence and localised struggles. When in Kolkata, our brothers and sisters are fighting it out not merely for survival but for the right to live a dignified and free life, let us wish it all power and condemn the authoritarian actions of the government of West Bengal. Let us stand with them in solidarity, and also intensify our struggles at our own locations.

We condemn the action of the Trinamool-led West Bengal government and the brutal lathicharge on the Nonadanga residents and their supporters on April 4, and the threat of impending everyday violence. We also condemn the arrest and framing of activists who stand in support of the resistance.

WE DEMAND:

Immediate and unconditional release of all the activists arrested on April 8. Drop charges against all seven of them: Debolina Chakraborty, Samik Chakraborty, Abhijnan Sarkar, Debjani Ghoah, Manas Chatterjee, Siddhartha Gupta and Partha Sarathi Ray.

Drop the draconian UAPA and all charges on Debolina Chakraborty, and release her immediately and unconditionally.

The state must stop further harassment of residents and activists, and apologise to the people for having infringed upon its democratic right to organise and dissent; and take action against the police officers involved in the lathicharge on April 4.

The right to housing and rehabilitation of the slum-dwellers and hawkers in Nonadanga must be immediately ensured in a fair and just manner so that that their labour-power is not further devalued.

All construction in Nonadanga by the KMDA must come to an immediate halt. The eviction drive in the city, and the anti-people programme of neo-liberal capitalist development of which it is an integral part, must be stopped.

The process of slum-eviction in Delhi must be stopped immediately and inhabitants of the jhuggi-jhopri clusters in the city should be provided with adequate land, and respectable housing with clean drinking-water sources and proper sanitation amenities.

Join a protest demonstration outside
Banga Bhavan on 25 April 11.30 am

Sd/-
All India Federation of Trade Unions(New)
All India Students Association
All India Revolutionary Students Organisation
Bigul Mazdoor Dasta
Disha Chatra Sagathan
Inquilabi Mazdoor Kendra
Jamia Teachers Solidarity Association
Krantikari Naujawan Sabha
Krantikari Yuva Sangathan
Mazdoor Patrika
Mehnatkash Mazdoor Morcha
New Socialist Initiative
Peoples’ Democratic Front of India
Progressive Democratic Students Union
People’s Union for Democratic Rights
Posco Pratirodh Solidarity-Delhi
Radical Notes
Sanhati-Delhi
Shramik Sangram Committee
Students For Resistance
Vidyarthi Yuvajan Sabha

Update: Slum Razed Near Anand Parbat in West Delhi

Slum Razed Near Anand Parbat in West Delhi
Agitated Slum Dwellers Protest in Large Numbers Outside the Chief Minister’s Residence in Janpath
CM assures to look into the Case and Calls for a Stop to the Demolition

On April 20th 2012, officials from DDA, along with a huge deployment of policeman, began the process of demolition in Gayatri Colony, near Baljeet Nagar (Anand Parbat industrial area). Earlier last year, portions of this slum cluster were demolished by the DDA. It is to be noted that no prior notification was released by the DDA about this demolition drive. As a result, the residents were taken completely off-guard. When the hapless residents tried to collect their belongings, they were thrashed by the police. More than 1000 families have suffered a huge loss of property, and are now denied basic amenities like shelter, drinking water, sanitary facilities, etc. Even now bulldozers are razing large portions of the slum cluster.

The agitated slum dwellers decided to protest outside the Chief Minister’s Office in Janpath, and bring to her immediate attention the plight of the thousands of impoverished workers and their families residing in the slum. The agitation was carried out under the banner of the Ghar Bachao Morcha, a body formed by the slum dwellers last year itself. The Hon’ble Chief Minister met with a three member delegation which apprised her of the large scale loss faced by the residents. In a powerful memorandum submitted to Shrimati Sheila Dixit, the slum dwellers argued how the DDA was encroaching upon their right to shelter which is enshrined in the fundamental right to life [Article 21, Constitution of India]. The delegation also apprised her of the police atrocities committed during such demolition drives.

The agitating slum dwellers have highlighted how most of them are migrants who have come from villages and tribal belts in search of honest employment. Facing financial ruin due to the precarious agrarian cycle, or because they have been displaced due to industrial/mining projects in tribal belts, many migrants come to cities like Delhi. Most of the male migrants work in factories/sweatshops or as rickshaw-pullers and vendors. Women migrants work as maid-servants in people’s homes or participate in the informal sector of the economy. Despite their important role in the socio-economic fabric of this city they are treated with little respect and made to feel as if our lives have no value. The agitating slum dwellers also highlighted how in a city where the law pertaining to rent regulation and minimum wages are violated continuously, migrant workers have no option but to reside in the cities in the slums. With their meager incomes and faced with the problem of soaring rents in authorized colonies, they are forced to live in slum settlements like Gayatri Colony. Activists from the Ghar Bachao Morchs also highlighted that the past record of DDA’s slum-clearance clearly shows that lands from which slum dwellers are evicted are mostly used for construction of malls or high-rise residential complexes which only the rich can afford. This, they argued was most unfortunate, considering that the DDA is supposed to cater to the needs of all strata of society. However, in reality very little of DDA’s finances are spent on housing projects for the poor.

Hearing their case, the Chief Minister agreed to a second meeting on Monday, 23rd April at her residence. She has assured the Ghar Bachao Morcha members that DDA officials will also be present at the meeting so that some immediate resolutions can be reached. The question of compensation to those who have lost their belongings will be central to the discussion. As of now, the CM has also assured that the demolition drive will be stopped.


Alok Kumar
Convenor, Ghar Bachao Morcha

Blind Workers March in Delhi

Sunil Kumar, Blind Workers Union
(A Unit of All India Federation of Blind Workers)
Affiliated to Workers Unity Center of India, WUCI

Today, on December 3, 2011, more than a thousand visually challenged workers from Benaras, Nasik, Kanpur, Faridabad, Bahadurgadh and Delhi participated in a massive protest rally on Parliament Street. Their rally was taken out from Jantar Mantar to Parliament Street on the occasion of World Disability Day. It was a culmination of an earlier struggle these blind workers have carried out against a well-known NGO which employs and exploit them, i.e. the National Federation of the Blind (NFB). The rally was an extremely important moment for these workers since they were using World Disability Day to expose how they were still denied many fundamental rights at workplaces. Instead of celebrating this day in the usual festive manner, these blind workers celebrated World Disability Day as a black day, which marked unfulfilled promises of equality.

Initially, the Delhi Police refused to allow the rally to proceed to Parliament Street. However, the agitated workers refused to be held back and broke free of the barricades so as to march onto Parliament Street. Quite expectedly, their fiery spirit did not mellow down, despite being manhandled. Following their protest rally, a delegation of the workers submitted a memorandum to the Hon’ble Minister of the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, Government of India. The delegation met the concerned minister, Shri Mukul Wasnik, and apprised him of plight of blind workers. They drew the minister’s attention to the fact that the government was doing little to prevent the rampant violation of its own laws pertaining to disability. In particular, the workers highlighted the violation of several provisions in the Persons with Disability (Equal Opportunity, Protection of rights and full participation) Act of 1995.

When discussing matters with the Minister, the workers highlighted how section 33 of this Act, which provides 3% reservation in identified posts (1% being earmarked for the blind and low vision persons), is unable to provide sufficient respite to the disabled because of inadequate job creation in the public sector itself. Another important provision in this 1995 Act which is far from being implemented is section 41. It provides incentives to disabled persons so as to ensure that at least 5% jobs of all workforces goes to them.

However, as highlighted by the protesting workers, both the older laws and policies as well as the newest government policies are failing miserably when it comes to ensuring a dignified and productive life to disabled people, in particular, disabled workers. For example, even the recently adopted National Policy for Persons with Disabilities (2006), which provides incentives, awards, tax exemption, etc. is redundant because the private sector which employs a large number of disabled workers, is least interested in implementing such policies, let alone statutory labour laws pertaining to minimum wages and parity at work. In fact, the promise of the National Policy for Persons with Disabilities (2006) to create one lakh jobs is still a mirage today. In this light, the recommendations of the Sudha Kaul Committee which was constituted to help frame a policy on disability, are also flawed. This Committee, for example, has made no recommendations with respect to labour rights relating to safety when assisting in the drafting of the Right of Persons with Disability Bill, 2011.

The gathering of workers on Parliament Street was addressed by aggrieved workers (those employed by National Federation of the Blind) as well as their leaders. Shri Alok Kumar from the All India Federation of the Blind addressed the gathering, and argued how shameful it was that National Federation of the Blind was also commemorating World Disability Day when this NGO itself exploited the impoverished blind workers. He went on to argue how necessary it was for the government to create more jobs opportunities for disabled workers, and how the government should ensure that all statutory labour laws are implemented in production centres run by “social service” organizations (like NFB) as well as other employers. Indeed, almost every blind worker who stood up to speak, emphasized that NGOs like NFB as well as other employers, act as if they are doing the blind workers a favour by employing them. In reality, as employers they earn huge profits from the labour of these workers. NGOs, in particular, also amass huge amounts of funds from the Government/foreign funding agencies by using the face of these poor blind workers.

It is with the express purpose of attaining greater job opportunities for disabled workers as well as parity in work conditions and wages between blind workers and sighted workers that the spirited rally of blind workers marched onto Parliament Street.

Contact: 9313730069
Email: blindworkersunion@gmail.com

MSEU: On the settlement between Maruti Suzuki management and workers representatives

MARUTI SUZUKI EMPLOYEES UNION (MSEU)
release: 2nd October

After a long struggle since August 29th and many rounds of negotiations, a settlement has been inked between the management of Maruti Suzuki India Ltd., IMT Manesar, and the workers representatives on 30th September 2011. The important thing in the settlement is that of the 62 workers, the 18 trainee workers have been taken back on duty. Of the 44 permanent workers, the termination has been revoked for the 15 workers, and now all 44 are on suspension with a legal process of enquiry that will take it course. We on our part reiterate that the pending charge-sheet are false and shall be defeated. The settlement binds us to a salary deduction for the period of struggle with a no-work no-pay rule. However the most important thing in the entire phase of standoff is the strength of the workers as a united force, which still stands unfazed and we shall come back in struggle and on duty.

With this settlement, the management-worker disagreement ends for the interim. We shall carry forth our part of the duty of production, and also ask the management to keep its promise, as set in the settlement, that it shall not take any action on the workers with bad faith or with vengeance. We thank all the central and independent trade unions, the workers in the Gurgaon-Dharuhera-Manesar-Bawal belt, and from across the country and beyond, as well as individuals concerned with our struggle, who have stood by us and lend us support in various ways. It is this strength and our unity that stands unwavering with us which is the inspiration we hold on for the time to come.

Maruti Suzuki Employees Union

President: Sonu Kumar
General Secretary: Shiv Kumar

The Hypocrisy of the ‘Poverty Line’: Seven times below the Stipulated Minimum Wage!

Peoples Union for Democratic Rights
26th September 2011

PUDR wishes to draw public attention to the recent controversy where Planning Commission informed the Supreme Court that anyone earning more than Rs 32 in urban and Rs 26 in rural areas per day is considered above the poverty line. Article 43 of India’s Constitution lays down that “(t)he state shall endeavour to secure by suitable legislation or economic organisation or in any other way to all workers, agricultural, industrial or otherwise, work, a living wage conditions of work ensuring a decent standard of life and full enjoyment of leisure and social and cultural opportunities”. India’s low ranking in major human development indices and the fact that an overwhelming majority of the population continue to be denied this conceptualisation of what would be considered a “fair wage”, raises disturbing questions with regard to the official standpoint on poverty.

In 1957 at the 15th Indian Labour Conference moves were made towards setting down norms for fixing Minimum Wage, a euphemism for a “living wage.’’ The 15th ILC recommended that in the first place the standard working class family should be taken to mean husband, wife and two children below the age of 14 yrs. Second, minimum food requirement should be calculated on the basis of 2700 calories daily per adult man, 2160 for woman and 1620 for the child. Further clothing requirement of 72 yards for a family per annum would be added while housing allowance corresponding to the minimum area provided for under the governments industrial housing schemes. Lastly fuel, lighting and other items of expenditure should constitute 20 percent of the total Minimum Wage.

While the Government did not accept these recommendations, Supreme Court approved these norms through its judgement in the case of U.Unichoyi v. State of Kerala (AIR 1962 SC 12) and thereby acquiring the force of law behind it. The apex court through its judgement in Workmen v. Reptakos Brett & Co Ltd (AIR 1992 SC 504) added a sixth norm – 25 percent of the total Minimum Wage was supposed to cover children’s education, medical treatment, recreation etc. The Court observed that these six norms would be nothing more than Minimum Wage at “subsistence level” which the workers must get “at all times and under all circumstances”.

Adherence to the six norms, let alone the five norms laid down by the 15th ILC, has been followed in breach. As a “living wage”, at current wage rates declared under MWA, comes to Rs 247 per day for unskilled. Rs 32 touted by the Planning Commission as “below poverty line” is less than seven times the MW which itself is a “subsistence wage”. Thus MW is seven times that of BPL rate. What this implies is that mass of our people are being robbed of their right to life by artificial constructions of poverty line. PUDR reiterates that the letter and spirit of Article 43 which forms part of the Directive Principles of State Policy be the basis for providing basic requirement to all citizens of India so that their right to a life of dignity and liberty can be ensured.

Harish Dhawan and Paramjeet Singh
Secretaries PUDR