Asia-Pacific Regional Meeting of WFTU
The Asia-Pacific Regional Meeting of WFTU (World Federation of Trade Unions) was held in Colombo, Sri Lanka on 6th and 7th October 2012. The meeting was attended by representatives of 16 affiliates of WFTU from 7 countries, namely India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia and Sri Lanka. The theme of the meeting was “Neo-liberal Globalization and Role of Trade Unions”. On behalf of All India Central Council of Trade Unions (AICCTU), Rajiv Dimri, National Secretary attended the meeting and presented the paper on the theme. The meeting began with Inaugural Session, which was attended by the activists of host trade unions, apart from representatives of above mentioned trade unions.
After two days deliberations, the meeting adopted some resolutions and “Colombo Declaration”.
The Resolutions include: full support to the call given by all 11 Central Trade Unions of India for a 2-day National General Strike on 20th and 21st February 2013; grief and outrage over the killing of workers in recent fire accidents in factories in Karachi and Lahore in Pakistan and at Sivakasi in India, and demand for the guilty employers to be brought to the book and strict enforcement of safety and other labour laws in the subcontinent; condemnation of the police firing at Marikana mine, South Africa, demand for the guilty to be brought to books and adequate compensation to the families, and immediate release of all arrested workers, withdrawal of false charges against them of killing these 34 workers; deep concern over blatant violation of trade union rights in Malaysia and union busting by Maybank Bhd, the leading government linked bank in Malaysia, and demand for reinstatement of the two office bearers of National Union of Bank Employees (NUBE) arbitrarily dismissed by Bank for exercising their trade union rights; and solidarity to the ongoing struggle in Sri Lanka on Public Sector Education demanding of the government to honour its commitments to enhance funding for education to at least 6% of GDP and protecting and enhancing free Education.
The Colombo Declaration resolved to unite the working class under WFTU affiliates and friendly organizations in Asia Pacific Region to intensify struggle on a 12-point charter of demands decided by the meeting and observe the following days to strengthen unity amongst working class to achieve the above goals: 8th March as International Women day and against violence on women; 1st May as International Workers’ Day; 12th June as Child Labour Day; 3rd October as International Action Day as decided by WFTU centre; and 18th December as International day to protect the rights of migrant workers.
The meeting also decided to hold workshops and seminars on burning issues of migrant workers of this region, on women’s rights and the role of working women in the Trade Union Movement,
and on issues of Garment workers and plantation workers in the region.
The conviction of and life sentence for peasants’ struggle leader Dr. Sunilam, founder-president of the Kisan Sangharsh Samiti (KSS) is the latest shameful and glaring instance of injustice and targeting of people’s struggles.
Dr. Sunilam has been convicted in a case related to the Multai Police Massacre, where police fired at and killed 24 protesting peasants at Multai, Madhya Pradesh in 1997. The peasants’ crime had been that they demanded compensation for crops devastated by storms, and waiver of farm loans. The then Congress Government headed by Digvijay Singh, instead of meeting these just demands, chose to unleash terror and bloodshed which brought the Jallianwala Bagh massacre to mind. Ironically, the police personnel who massacred protesting peasants are yet to be charged, prosecuted, and punished – while the peasants’ leader is being persecuted and sentenced to prison after 14 years!
By targeting Dr. Sunilam in a host of false cases, the powers that be at MP and at the Centre also seek to weaken ongoing peasant struggles being led by the KSS.
The CPI(ML) demands the release of Dr. Sunilam, withdrawal of all the false cases against him, his acquittal in the Multai case, and prosecution of those responsible for the police firing and massacre of peasants in Multai 1997.
A team of leaders and activists of AIPWA and AISA visited Haryana on 12-13 October, to investigate the alarming spate of rape cases in the state. The team comprised of AIPWA National Secretary Kavita Krishnan, JNU Students’ Union Councillor Anubhuti Bara, and AISA activists from Delhi University, Prerna and Saurabh Naruka. The team was accompanied by Comrade Prem Singh Gehlawat, in-charge of the CPI(ML) for Haryana.
Haryana has witnessed a spate of rapes and gang-rapes, many of them targeting women from Dalit and backward communities. There have been 17 such instances in the past one month.
The response of the Government of Haryana, the ruling party, and the main Opposition party, has been shockingly patriarchal and insensitive. Phool Chand Mulana, Chief of Haryana’s ruling party, the Congress, declared that the rapes are a conspiracy against the Government. Haryana DGP R S Dalal said parents need to keep an eye on the activities of their children. And Congress spokesperson Dharmveer Goyat said that 90% of rape cases are consensual. Meanwhile, the khap panchayats suggested child marriage would prevent rape – a sentiment echied by former Haryana CM Om Prakash Chautala. In the name of preventing rape, the khaps and their political patrons are actually pushing child marriage to prevent women from exercising their own choice in marriage – something they otherwise achieve by honour crimes and killings.
The team visited Banwasa (Gohana), Sacchakheda (Narwana), and Dabra (Hisar) where dalit women had been gang-raped. They visited the affected women and their families, and enquired on the action being taken by the police and other authorities.
The systematic gender and caste oppression– and the failure of the Government to defend the rights of dalits and women, are major factors in the rise in the instances of rapes and dalit atrocities in in Haryana as well as in the rest of the country.
On 10 October, women’s groups and progressive forces held a militant protest at the office of the National Commission for Women at Delhi, protesting inaction in the case of custodial sexual violence and humiliation of adivasi schoolteacher Soni Sori in Chhattisgarh jails.
A full year had passed since women’s groups brought the matter to the NCW’s notice, but in spite of repeated appeals and reminders, the NCW took no action at all, and did not even visit Soni when she was in hospital in Delhi.
Saheli, AIPWA, NFIW, several other women’s groups, AISA, as well as a large number of CPI(ML) activists participated in the protest. Representatives of NCW revealed that they had actually closed the case a few days before the protest, without even bothering to inform the petitioners! The protestors agitated until the NCW was forced to reopen the case. Subsequently, the NCW has agreed to send a fact-finding team along with representatives of women’s groups to investigate the conditions of women prisoners in jails of Dantewada, Raipur, and Durg, where Soni and many others accused of being Maoists are incarcerated.