THE capital city of Karnataka, Bengaluru witnessed a mammoth struggle of working class of the state on September 14. Over 40,000 workers belonging to 178 unions affiliated to Centre of Indian Trade Union (CITU) from across 30 districts converged in Bengaluru to participate in the “Namma Nade…Bengalurinede Maha Nade”, the mega march towards Bengaluru. The mobilisation has created history in terms of the size of the participation of workers in recent times. The strong voice of the toiling masses of Karnataka shook the ruling Congress government in the state as well as employers of various segments who suck the blood of the workers by not paying the legal wages and other compensations.
The demand of the workers, organised under the banner of CITU, included a minimum wage of Rs 18,000, abolition of contract labour system, implementation of Supreme Court judgement on equal wages for same work, forming and convening of tri-partite
Karnataka Labour Conference and inclusion of CITU in the Minimum Wage Board.
The workers from various sectors such as anganavadi, ASHA, Mid-day meal, panchayat, construction, hamali, municipal workers, beedi workers, plantation, tiles, contract workers from government,
electricity, BSNL and private and public sector industries have struck work on the day to participate in the agitation in order to display the solidarity of toiling people.
Thousands of workers who flocked the capital city, many among them wearing red uniforms, undaunted by scorching sun took out a procession from Sangolli Rayanna Railway Station up to Freedom Park raising slogans powerfully. As the agitating workers squatted on the Sheshadri Road, the traffic and other activities in the heart of the city came almost to a standstill for several hours pointing towards the intensity of the struggle.
CITU state president S Varalakshmi, secretary Meenakshi Sundaram and CPI(M) state secretary GV Sriram Reddy, addressed the workers. The state government’s failure to enact suitable law as well as failure in implementing existing laws and Supreme Court’s direction, has forced the workers to wage struggles since 2008. In this background, the CITU state committee had decided to launch an agitation on bigger scale towards pressurising the government. Provident Fund to workers of unorganised sector was another major demand raised at the march.
The mega march also vociferously resisted the moves of the union
government to privatise the public sector industries such as BEML.
In preparation to the mega march, district and state level workshops and jathas were organised. A state level jatha from Vidurashwath to Kundapura from July 29-August 13 has reached thousands of people creating awareness about the plight of the working people and about their demands. The jatha focused on the falsehood of the governments and the industrialists who are arguing that there will be a setback for investment in the state if minimum wages were paid and exposed how the argument was baseless.
Addressing the agitating workers after receiving the memorandum, the labour minister announced that the government has issued notification for inclusion of CITU in the Minimum Wage Board, and has agreed to convene Karnataka Labour Conference to discuss all worker-related issues. He also assured to speed up some of the pending legislation for implementing the assurances given earlier. Some specific issues of workers in the state-owned industries and mid day meal workers have been resolved.