13 March 2016

Armed Attack on Brickfield Workers

Ashanghatit Khetra Shramik Sangrami Manch (AKSSM) strongly condemns the armed attack on the struggling workers of brickfields in Hasnabad of Basirhat Sub-Division in District 24 Parganas (N) and subsequent police inaction.

On Monday morning (22nd February 2016) at 8.30 a.m. a peaceful rally of the workers was attacked by the hired goons of the owners of many brick-fields with firearms and country made bombs, leading to injuries to several of the agitating workers. Across the state, brick-field owners are systematically violating all existing labour laws, including that of minimum wage. Workers are being forced to live in sub-human conditions. To protest against this, workers of eleven brick-fields under the banner of Shramajibi Samanwaya Committee (SSC), a federation of workers in different micro and small scale industries of Basirhat sub-division, and an active member of AKSSM, unitedly intensified their movement recently to achieve their demand of minimum wage, as per the law of the land.

Backing the assault was Shahanur Mondal, a brickfield owner, who is also a cattle smuggler and a feared local mafia. He is also an Upapradhan from the TMC. Also present were owners of various brickfields, who financed the attack. Chief among these was Ashu Mondal, a brickfield owner and a BJP councillor.

The attack, where bombs and guns were used to intimidate and injure the workers, was fought off by the workers. They also managed to grab once of the attackers and hand him over to the police. Despite this and despite an FIR, the administration has been inactive. It has once again been exposed that the police and the administration are in unholy alliance with the defaulting industry owners.  In response to the inaction on part of police and administration, the workers held protest marches in the morning and evening.

In the meantime, the SDO had already scheduled a tripartite meeting on 24th February 2016 for a settlement of wages in the brick fields in the subdivision. In Shramajibi Samanwaya Committee's experience, all such meetings in the past have ended in the shameful capitulation by the administration, including the Labour Department, and some unions to the owner's demand to pay much less than the minimum wage. SSC's movement has been aimed at condemning such compromises on the part of the Government, where the authority responsible for enforcing minimum wages never enforces the same , but instead actively allows agreements below the minimum wage.

Shramajibi Samanwaya Committee has given the police 24 hours to arrest the attackers, failing which they will begin their protest from noon on 23rd February 2016, starting with blocking of train movements tomorrow morning at Hasnabad railway station for an indefinite period. They will also put forward their demand for minimum wages.

AKSSM calls upon the police administration to immediately arrest the culprits. It also demands that the long-standing issue of minimum wages for brick-field workers be resolved once and for all, with strict punitive action against all owners who do not pay the minimum wage.

AKSSM further calls upon all right thinking people to extend their support to the legitimate struggle of the SSC workers in all ways possible.

Swapan Ganguly, Somnath Ghosh (Convenors)

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