Mahapadav: Prominent intellectuals support workers, demand action by PM

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Over 50 well-known intellectuals, writers and artists have issued an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi demanding that his government at the Centre intervenes to resolve the basic demands of workers in the country. Among those who endorsed the letter were writers Krishna Sobti, K. Satchidanandan and Githa Hariharan; classical dancer and activist Mallika Sarabhai; Bezwada Wilson of the Safai Karmachari Andolan; retd. Finance Secretary SP Shukla; retired DU professor Achin Vanaik; JNU professors Jayati Ghosh, CP Chandrasekar and Ayesha Kidwai; film maker Rahul Roy; and scientist Satyajit Rath, among others (see full list below).

This letter was issued on the third and final day of the Workers’ Mahapadav in which thousands of workers from across the country gathered at Delhi demanding immediate acceptance of their 12-point demand charter. It was read out at the mahapadav on 11 November and was acclaimed with thunderous applause and slogans by the fighting workers.

This event, largely ignored by the mass media, is a continuation of a struggle launched by 10 central trade unions and diverse federations of workers and employees that was launched in 2013 with a Workers’ March to Parliament. Subsequently, two all India strikes have taken place, in 2015 and 2016, the last one involving 180-200 million workers. The workers are demanding basic rights like better wages, social security etc. and also urging withdrawal of anti-people policies like labour law changes, privatization of public sector, etc. After demonetisation and GST, unemployment has become a key issue as job-less growth has now turned into job-loss growth. The 4-month long campaign preceding the mahapadav has also focused on fighting against communal and divisive forces and in defence of minorities, dalits and adivasis who are facing attacks under Modi.

The government has failed to give any attention to the workers. The last serious round of talks was in 2015 where ludicrous proposals and posturing was on the agenda. The labour minister went through the motions of having discussion with trade unions on 7 November this year, but it was another farcical exercise.

Text of Open Letter to the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi

We the undersigned concerned citizens strongly urge Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his government, to immediately pay attention to the demands raised by workers of the country represented by 10 central trade unions and several all India federations of workers and employees. The workers have been agitating for several years for getting better wages and social security, for a universal PDS, for end to contract-work, for controlling price rise and for ending various policies hostile to people’s interests like privatization of public sector units, dilution of labour laws, etc. Living standards have fallen, joblessness and job insecurity has increased, and the country’s self-reliance is threatened by your government’s policies. Workers are the backbone of our economy and primary creators of wealth. Their continued neglect and marginalization, even as big industrialists and foreign capital receive largesse from your government is a betrayal of the public mandate given to you.

List of Signatories (in alphabetical order)

Abha Dev Habib, Professor, Delhi University
Achin Vanaik, Retd. Professor, Delhi University
Amit Sengupta, Peoples Health Movement
Anu Chenoy, Professor, JNU
Archana Prashad, Professor, JNU
Ayesha Kidwai, Professor, JNU
Benny Kuruvilla , Researcher
Bhupinder Chaudhury, Professor, Delhi University
Bezwada Wilson, National Convenor of the Safai Karmachari Andolan
Chanchal Chauhan, Writer & Retired Lecturer  Delhi University
Chandra Dutt, Director, COSTFORD
Chandrakant Patil, Writer and Poet
CP Chandrasekhar, Professor, JNU
D. Raghunandan, All India Peoples Science Network
Dinesh Abrol, Professor, ISID
Doodhnath Singh, Poet and Writer
Gautam Navlakha, Journalist
Geetanjali Shree, Novelist and short story writer
Githa Hariharan, Writer  and Editor
Indu Prakash Singh, Forum Against Corruption & Threats (FACT)
Jawrimall Parakh , Writer
Jayati Ghosh, Professor, JNU
K. Satchidanandan,  Poet and Critic
Kalyani Menon Sen, Feminist Learning Partnerships
Kamal Chenoy, Professor, JNU
Kamala Menon , Secretary, Delhi Science Forum
Krishna Sobti, Writer
Mallika Sarabhai, Classical dancer
Murli Manohar Prasad Singh, Retd. Professor, DU, Editor Naya Path
M.K.Raina, Theatre Director
Nayantara Sahgal, Writer
N.K.Sharma, Theatre Director
Prabir Purkayastha, Editor, Newsclick
Praveen Jha, Professor, JNU
Rahman Abbas, Writer
Rahul Roy, Professor, India Statistical Institute
Rahul Roy, Delhi Film Maker
Rajesh Joshi, Writer and poet
Ramdas Rao, PUCL
Rekha Awasthi , Writer & Retired Professor Delhi University
Satyajit Rath, Retd. Scientist, National Institute of Immunology
Saumyajit Bhattacharya, Professor, Delhi University
Shashwati Majumdar, Professor, Delhi University
Smita Gupta, Independent Researcher
Sohail Hashmi, Cultural Activist
SP Shukla, Former, Secretary, Finance, Govt. of India
Subodh Varma, Journalist
Sudhanwa Deshpande, Managing Editor, Leftword Books
Surajit Majumdar, Professor, JNU
T Jayaraman, Professor, TISS
T.M. Krishna, Carnatic Singer
Vidya Rao, Classical singer and writer
Vijay Prashad, Chief Editor, Leftword Books
Vikas Rawal , Professor, JNU