On August 9, Quit India movement day the All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS), All India Agricultural Workers’ Union (AIAWU) and Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) will lead a nationwide mass movement of farmers and workers. They will gather and demand health, food, income and employment for all farmers, farm workers, migrant workers, labourers.
The organisations have demanded that the government give the farmers and workers across India, access to free universal healthcare, including Covid-19 tests and treatment if required. As workers and farmers have been the worst hit by the Covid-19 lockdown, the unions have demanded that each person be given 10kg free food grains per month, for at least the next six months. A crucial demand, which had been recommended by leading economists too, was to put money in the pockets of the marginalised to restart the stalled economy. The trade unions ask that the government pay Rs.7500 per month for all non tax- paying families, for next six months.
As lakhs of migrant workers have been rendered homeless, and are under great financial stress even as they have returned home, the CITU, AIKS and AIAWU have also raised their voices. According to Hannan Mollah, General Secretary AIKS, the unions have demanded that these workers be given “200 days of work” under the Mahatma Gandhi National Employment Guarantee Act 2005 (MGNREGA) “at the rate of Rs 600 as wages per day, or an unemployment allowance."
"It was the sudden lockdown that forced factories to shut, and the workers were out of their jobs,” said the union leaders. A major demand, said Mollah, that has already been voiced but still needs to be reiterated is to seek that the government rescind the recently passed Ordinances, that have done away with many labour welfare laws, as well as executive orders on Essential Commodities, Farm Trade, and Electricity Act.
To ensure that these demands are heard, and met, the union leadership has announced that they are launching multiple campaigns in the coming months.Some rural campaigns are already underway at villages across the country, said Tapan Sen General Secretary, CITU, they will culminate at a sub-divisional level mobilisation July 23.And that will be a curtain raiser to a national level demonstration on August 9.
According to the farmer, worker, and trade union leadership, they may also consider going to court against the various Ordinances that have been passed during the lockdown. “The issue must also be discussed in Parliament,” said Tapan Sen. “These are anti farmers and will benefit the corporates only. The farmer will be reduced to being slaves on their own land,” added Hannan Mollah, “families will become slaves.” He added that these ordinances will only benefit big corporate houses, and hoarders.
The farmer, and worker unions have said the government has used the lockdown to make a shift in the agricultural economy, to benefit corporates and landlords, and “depriving the producers,” the real wealth creators. The government, they alleged, have “finished off self reliance” and undone 70 years of work that was behind earning all the rights for labourers and workers of India.
With the lockdown creating a situation of reverse migration, there has been a rise in “acute unemployment, deepening absolute poverty and total lack of health facilities,” in the rural areas of the country. “Only the Kerala model has worked,” said B Venkat, General secretary of AIAWU. The union leaders said there isa need to “step up combative countrywide united struggles against the anti-people, anti-farmer, anti-worker neoliberal policy regime.”
“We have to defy, resist, combat,” said Tapan Sen, “we have to do a massive mobilisation.”
“We will strive to develop massive joint struggles of the trade unions, peasant organisations and organisations of various class mass and social organisations against these anti-national policies in the coming days,” stated the trade unions in a signed statement. The AIKS and AIAWU will also support the calls given by CTUs, to observe a day of protest on July 3. This protest will be one of “non cooperation and defiance”.