Construction Workers' March to Parliament
On 15 March 2010, under the banner of the All India Central Council of Trade Unions (AICCTU)-affiliated All India Construction Workers’ Federation (AICWF), hundreds of construction workers from different states held a March to Parliament against hike in fuel rates, price rise and to demand implementation of the Central Construction Workers’ Act 1996 throughout the country.
The procession was led by AICCTU General Secretary Swapan Mukherjee, the General Secretary of the Federation RN Thakur, President of the Federation S Balasubramanian, V.President SK Sharma, Dashrath Sinhali from Gujarat, Harkesh Bugalia from Rajasthan, several construction workers’ leaders from Bihar, AICCTU Delhi State Secretary Santosh Roy, President NM Thomas, AICWF leaders like VKS Gautam, Ardhendu Roy from Delhi and Anthonymutthu and Iraniappan from Tamilnadu and AIPWA Secretary Kavita Krishnan.
While the Construction Labour Act has not been implemented throughout the country even 14 years after its enactment, the pro-corporate Acts like SEZ are implemented promptly even at gunpoint. Six crore workers of the flourishing construction industry do not even get a living wage and any protection from skyrocketing price rise. As the majority of these construction workers are migrant workers, they face attacks at the hands of regional chauvinistic forces. The March to Parliament gave a call for an all-out protest against the budget 2010 and intensification of movement of unorganized workers including construction workers.
The March also demanded Rs.200/- as national level minimum wage with inclusion of VDA for all unorganized workers, provision of Inter-state I-cards to migrant workers, enacting the Food Security Act, BPL cards to all construction workers, equal wages for women workers and other demands. A 15-point Charter of demands was submitted to Labour Secretary, Govt. of India by a four-member delegation.
AICCTU Beedi Workers Workshop at Tirunelveli
As a part of the membership drive among beedi workers some macro and micro investigations were taken up and with the findings of these preliminary investigations a workshop was held in Tirunelveli on March 14. A paper was presented which narrated the socio-economic and working conditions of the beedi workers. 65 comrades including 37 women participated. Comrades Kumarasami, NK Natarajan, and KG Desikan attended the workshop.
The following demands were raised in the workshop, and these demands will be highlighted in a campaign in the villages among beedi workers 15 days from April 1 onwards: Include all beedi workers in the BPL list; Scrap loans of beedi workers upto Rs.20,000 per worker; Construct 10,000 houses per year out of the cess fund; Increase salary to Rs 150 per day; Amend Beedi Cigar Working Conditions Act and Tamilnadu Rules suitably at the earliest so that they encompass millions of home workers instead of a few thousand industrial workers; Lakhs of beedi workers are not covered by welfare legislations– conduct a census of beedi workers immediately; Stop spending 65% of cess fund on administrative expenses, let the government bear these expenses; 12 inspectors for 6 lakh workers is a travesty of justice; appoint at least 60 inspectors and implement labour laws strictly and improve sanitation and health conditions in beedi neighbourhoods.
AIALA Demo in Tamilnadu
All India Agricultural Labourers’ Association (AIALA) organized a panchayat-level demonstration in Tamil Nadu (March 5-15) demanding inclusion in BPL list, work under MGNREGA, Rs.200 daily wages under MGNREGA, homestead land and patta. A Signature campaign on these demands was taken up and the signatures were submitted to the authorities through demonstration. These campaigns were held all over TN in 36 panchayats of 15 blocks. 12433 signatures were obtained and 9375 rural poor were mobilized in the demonstrations. In all about 10400 memoranda were submitted by them in Pudukottai (10 panchayats in 4 blocks), Cuddalore (1 panchayat), Villupuram (8 panchayats in 3 blocks), Tanjore (3 panchayats), Nagai and Tiruvallore (4 panchayats in 2 blocks each) and Madurai (4 panchayats).
Demonstrations were organized in front of four Panchayat Offices in Madurai District on March 10. At Ramaiyan Patti Panchayat, more than 200 women assembled in front of the Panchayat Office with empty pots. The village President, a Dalit woman, had sanctioned more private connections (reportedly in exchange for bribes) to high caste people and they were diverting water from the supply line with their motorized connections, causing water scarcity to all the poor people. Protestors demanded immediate disconnection of all motorized connections. The protest followed a week-long campaign on this issue. The powerful households responded by warning the President with dire consequences if she dared to disconnect. Under pressure, the President fled from her office on the evening of 10 March. The protesters demanded that the President personally appear and receive the petition, but she remained adamant. Protestors led by Comrade Usha decided to march to the house of the president, but the police denied permission and warned of severe action. When the protestors declared their intention to violate police orders, the police had no option but to instruct the President to appear in person. The President then came and received the petitions and promised disconnection of all illegal connections; she also demanded that the Party should defend her actions. With assurance from both sides the struggle came to an end.
In Kattakulam more than 100 protestors assembled demanding disclosure of the BPL list and details of NREGA. The protestors demanded that names of the BPL beneficiaries listed should be made available for public scrutiny so that the list commands credibility. The officials agreed to provide a copy of the list within a week.
In Kutaladampatti more than 300 assembled after completing NREGA work. The President of the Panchayat escaped the scene. In Andipatty nearly 100 assembled in the evening in front of the Panchayat Office. The Panchayat President and Clerk met the people and promised to provide the present BPL list and also agreed to provide BPL certificate to the people who apply for any welfare scheme.
IIMS Launched in Kerala
Indian Institute of Marxist Studies (IIMS) launched its Kerala Chapter on 14 March through a meeting at Trivandrum. The meeting also elected Com. KM Venugopalan as the convenor of the Kerala Chapter with a core group to coordinate its activities.
Marxism, a universal philosophy having enough potential to enrich itself through practice is under attack from various quarters as it is generally being viewed through the prism of so-called 'Marxist' party in Kerala- CPI(M), which has made Marxism a dogma to suit its own convenience. Internationally also, many variants of social democracy and revisionism are being peddled in the name of Marxism. In such a backdrop, the meeting felt the need to retrieve the revolutionary essence of Marxism in today's context.
The meeting also felt the need to have a forum for healthy debates and exchange of ideas that can explore Marxism from a revolutionary point of view against the prevalent revisionist and social-democratic viewpoint in the state. The forum will act as a forum for interaction of various revolutionary Marxist and progressive ideas on various fundamental and burning issues of the day. It will also try to interact with all like-minded Left individuals, organisations and the people who want to interact with Marxism.
Annual GBM of RYA at Puducherry
The annual General Body Meeting of the Puducherry unit of Revolutionary Youth Association (RYA) was held on 21 February 2010 at Comrade Bhagat Singh Nagar (Muthialpet) in Com. Chandrashekhar Hall. Puducherry and especially the Muthialpet area were decorated with wall writing, banners, festoons and flags. The Hall was decorated with photographs and quotations of communist leaders.
The meeting was inaugurated and addressed by Com. S Balasubramanium, State Sectetary, CPI(ML), who called upon youth to unite with the struggles of the oppressed and defend the country against imperialist policies. Com. P Ravikumar presented the draft document. Youths from all areas of Puducherry and Karaikal regions took part in the GBM and actively participated in the lively discussion.
The GBM unanimously elected a 15-member State Committee and 9 office bearers with P Ravikumar as Secretary and A Alagappan as President. A 20-point resolution was adopted by the house. It was decided to recruit 2000 members organised in 20 branches by the year 2011. A convention will be held on March 23 (Bhagat Singh martyrdom day) with the demand: "Replace the imperialist symbol of the Dupleix statue with one of Bhagat Singh). A signature campaign will be launched on this issue.
AISA-RYA Protest March in Giridih against Greenhunt
On 11 March, AISA and RYA held a Protest March in Giridih, Jharkhand, from Jhanda Maidan to Tower Chowk, where a mass meeting was held. The March raised the slogan – "We want an end to Greenhunt, Corruption and Corporate Loot – We want Education and Employment.' The meeting was addressed by AISA's National Vice President Aslam, AISA's Jharkhand Convenor Hemlal Mahto, RYA State VP Rameshwar Chowdhury and CPI(ML) leaders such as Rajesh Yadav and Parameshwar Mahto and others.