Wednesday, January 09, 2019

India's Bharat Bandh

Millions of Indian workers across the whole country took part in a general strike on the 8th and 9th of this month to express their anger at the Modi government. Over 150 million workers took part in the two-day general strike with tens of thousands of workers defying threats of sackings. The BJP government has pushed to break trade union power by using the courts to undermine the right to strike and by using the legislature to amend the trade union laws. A new trade union law sits in the legislature. It would mean the death of trade unionism in India.Weaker unions would mean demoralized workers, which would mean that workers would now be utterly at the mercy of the private firms.  Harassed trade unionists make for a harsh work environment. The new law grants the government discretionary power in recognising labour organisations, effectively eliminating the current bargaining process involving employees, employers and the government. Unions are also demanding the enactment of the Social Security Act to protect workers and a minimum wage of 24,000 rupees (more than US$ 340) for the unorganised transport sector

According to a recent report by the ILO, in 2018, as many as 18.3 million Indians were unemployed in 2017, and unemployment is projected to increase to 18.9 million by 2019. 1.3 million young people are joining the lines of the unemployed every month. Recently in March 2018, as reported by the media, for 90,000 jobs at Indian Railways, 28 million people applied. 200,000 candidates were competing for 1,137 police constable vacancies in Mumbai, many of whom were over-qualified: 423 had degrees in engineering, 167 were Masters in Business Administration and 543 were post-graduates, while the basic qualification required for the post was a simple pass in 12th standard.There is widespread resentment with the lack of employment opportunities in the country.

41 percent of India’s population is below the age of 20, which could serve to its advantage. And yet the statistics on suicides, particularly of young people is staggering, dwarfed only by the phenomenal level of peasant suicides in the country. India has one of the world’s highest suicide rates for youth aged 15 to 29. In 2016, 9,474 students committed suicide – almost 26 every day. Over 75,000 students have committed suicide in India over the 10 years up to 2016. Elsewhere in India, about 300,000 farmers have committed suicide largely because of the agrarian debt crisis.
Our question is: towards what political end will the strike lead? We, the working class cannot be treated yet again as cannon fodder to bargain for a few crumbs from the rival gangs of the capitalist class in this country. The socialist alternative is the crying need of the hour. Let’s build an independent working class. Capitalism has proven beyond any doubt that it has miserably failed in solving the fundamental problems of poverty, illiteracy squalor, disease, unemployment, landlessness & housing. It continues the discrimination by class and caste, class and gender. Its greed for profits is threatening the very ecological balance of earth. Capitalism offers no solutions. If the new trade union law goes into effect, India will essentially abandon any commitment to workplace democracy. It is part of the slow erosion of democratic processes in the country.

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