11 November 2014

'We Are 93' March For Workers' Rights

“Aamra Tiranabboi”  (We are 93) organized a rally Rally at Rani Rashmoni Road on November 11, 2014. Two processions started at 12 p.m. from Sealdah and Howrah

We are 93% of the work force in India, producing 67% of the country’s GDP.  We are unorganized sector workers.  Our daily problems are insecurity in work and deprivation from any kind of social security; low wages in the midst of huge inflation; inhuman working conditions. We have understood in our work and our communities that the political situation and the socio-economic conditions at the State level and Central level are responsible for our dire situation.  The rally took  place under the banner of the Ossongothito Khetra Sramik Sangrami Manch (Unorganised Sector Workers' Platform for Struggle), the conveners of which are Swapan Ganguly and Somnath Ghosh.

Among the issues highlighted at the rally were: 

·The attacks by the Government on the fundamental right to association. These form a part of the general police and gunda raj that prevails in the state. The experience of the civic police volunteers and brickfield workers who are members of the Manch is especially notable in this respect.
·The reluctance of the State Government to implement the Minimum Wages Act, especially in the context of tea plantation workers. 
·The failure of the State and Central Government to provide minimum food security to workers through the implementation of the National Food Security Act
·The dilution of the 100 days work programme under the Mahatma Gandhi Rural Employment Guarantee Act and the attempt to withdraw it by the Central Government.

We are apprehensive about the attempts to create divisions amongst the working class by communal forces in our state and our country. The role of the party ruling at the Centre is especially worrying, as is the pandering to communal elements by the parties at both the Centre and State. The unity of the workers is our strength and divisions can only weaken us. Our rally is also taking place in this context.

Among those at the rally were agricultural workers, marginal farmers, construction workers, biri rollers, brick field workers, Health Department link workers, midday meal scheme cooks, civic police volunteers, members of self-help groups, sericulture workers, fish workers, tea plantation workers, hawkers, contract workers and many others. Workers camme from the hilly tea gardens in the north and the fisheries on the coast in Sunderbans, from Purulia in the west and Murshidabad in the east.

Our specific demands are:

·Stop taking away workers’ rights, including the right to strike;
·Declare Rs.15,000 per month as the minimum wage for all workers in all trades, including tea plantation workers;
·Establish democracy in all spheres of society. Stop political violence and attacks on opposing forces and give every person the freedom to express their views;
·All workers must be covered by ESI (health security), provident fund, pension and other social security measures. Pension must be 50% of last wage drawn;
·Stop the appointment of contract, “volunteers” and temporary workers to work that is permanent in nature;
·Women’s safety in the workplace, in public places and in the homes must be ensured;
·Creches must be set up in all work places;
·Social and economic security of all Dalits, Adivasis, religious minorities and other deprived communities must be ensured;
·Stop dilution of the 100 days MGNREGA programme;
·Implement the limited provisions of National Food Security Act immediately and amend the Act to make it a law guaranteeing real food security;
·Remunerative prices for produce and subsidies for inputs must be guaranteed for small and marginal farmers;
·Affordable housing must be guaranteed for all workers near their places of work; pattas for homestead land must be given to all tea plantation workers;
·All closed tea gardens must be re-opened; 
·Implement the 2014 Hawkers Act immediately.

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