Foundation Conference of Mid-Day-Meal Workers Federation Held in Bengaluru
THE foundation conference of Mid-Day-Meal Workers Federation of India – their first all India conference was held in Bengaluru from June 21-23, 2015. The city of Bengaluru which, in the recent years has witnessed large militant mobilisations of scheme workers including MDM workers has once again witnessed a massive mobilisation of Mid-Day-Meal workers on June 21 who had come from different parts of Karnataka to be part of a colorful rally of 10,000 Mid-Day-Meal workers, all clad in red, organised on the occasion of their first conference. The rally started from the city and turned into a big public meeting after reaching Freedom Park. At Freedom Park, the public meeting was addressed by CITU general secretary and MP, Tapan Sen, CITU national secretary and national convener of the All India Co-ordination Committee of Mid-Day-Meal Workers, AR Sindhu, national secretary and state general secretary of CITU, S Prasanna Kumar and national secretary of CITU and president of MDM Workers, Karnataka State Union, S Varalakshmi. Addressing the public meeting, Tapan Sen congratulated the MDM workers and their federation for its efforts and hard work in organising MDM workers in the continuous struggle to save the scheme and thereby safeguard the interests of its beneficiaries. He said that the Modi government’s attack on the working people was so severe that it has posed a serious challenge to the hitherto available rights to them and to their livelihoods. Tapan sen highlighted the major demands of scheme workers and urged them to fight the policies and politics of neo-liberalism and communalism. INAUGURAL SESSION After the flag hoisting by S Leelavati, founder general secretary of the Karnataka State MDM Union, delegates and observes paid floral tributes at the Martyrs’ Column. The inaugural session began with the welcome speech of the chairman of the reception committee and the president of AIIEA, Amanulla Khan. The conference was inaugurated by Tapan Sen. He said that MDM workers are fighting for their demands and the government is not responding to their demands. He said that the CITU centre’s intervention and interventions of the MDMWFI on the ground have resulted in reaching to this stage and called upon the delegates to discuss as how to build the organisation further. He urged the MDMWFI to build links beyond their work places as this process will help in developing the consciousness of MDM workers. He reminded the delegates that it was the ICDS workers federation which led to the development of scheme workers movement, which galvanised the demand of recognising them as workers. He said the CITU is always there to extend all the help to MDM workers movement and to expose the politics behind the policies. He called upon the MDMWFI to be on the streets all over the country on September 2, the day of All India General Strike against anti-worker policies of the Modi government. 260 delegates from 16 states - Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Manipur, Odisha, Rajasthan, Telangana, Tripura, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal - participated in the conference. As per the affiliation given by the states, the MDMWFI has membership of 1,25,196 in 18 states. The conference was conducted by a presidium consisting of Jai Bhagawan (Haryana), Varalakshmi (Andhra Pradesh), Byas Prasad Yadav (Bihar), Lakshmi (Karnataka), Chitra Rajvanshi (Assam), Mira Shinde (Maharashtra), S Rama (Telangana) ,V P Janaki (Kerala) and Himi Devi (Himachal Pradesh). The report since the formation of the AICCMDMW in 2009 was presented by AR Sindhu, convenor. She also presented the draft constitution of the federation. The report narrated how the government policies are affecting the mid day meal scheme and the workers. It has analysed the experience of the AICCMDMW since 2009. It was noted that through continuous struggles and campaign, the AICCMDMW could mobilise public opinion against the exploitation of the mid day meal workers. Through struggles, the AICCMDMW could pressurise the government to formulate some norms regarding the working conditions of MDMWs and could get separate allocation for wages of MDMWs. AICCMDMW had conducted many struggles including four marches to parliament. In many states, the MDMW unions could achieve financial as well as other benefits for the workers. The organisation had advanced from having few unions and contacts in 12 states in 2009, to at present having registered unions in 12 states, functioning unions in other six and contacts in two states. The membership in 2014 is 1,25,196 in 18 states. 27 delegates participated in the discussions. The discussions highlighted that the government policies are dismantling the scheme through attempts to privatise it. They exposed the slave like working conditions of the mid day meal workers and spoke of their heroic struggles for improving the working conditions and against the privatisation of the scheme. After the reply, the report and the constitution was adopted unanimously. Cultural programmes and songs by different state delegations and cultural teams from Karnataka added to the enthusiasm of the delegates. The conference elected a 51 member committee with S Varalakshmi as the president, Jai Bhagawan as the general secretary and Jagat Ram as the treasurer. The conference elected AR Sindhu, Swaroopa Rani (AP), Radha Raman Sarangi (Odisha), Monika Dutta Roy (Tripura) and V P Kunhikrishnan (Kerala) as vice presidents and Pushpendra Tyagi, Bibekananda Adhikari (Assam), Malini Meshta (Karnataka), Byas Prasad Yadav (Bihar), Ratna Dutta (West Bengal), S Rama (Telengana) and Prabhakar Nagargoje (Maharashtra) as secretaries. The conference resolved to participate in the all India general strike called by the central trade unions. The conference has given a call to intensify the struggles for better working conditions and against privatisation. The conference decided to increase its membership to 2 lakhs by the next conference. A national seminar on ‘The Budget, Welfare Schemes, Working Class and the Government Policies’ was conducted on the occasion of the conference. Renowned economist, Professor Utsa Patnaik presented the subject. She explained the gravity of the cut in social sector spending in the union budget 2015-16 and how it will have a multiplying effect on the purchasing power of the people and how it is detrimental to them. Dr Beraguru Ramachandrappa, well known social critique and literary person, G V Sriram Reddy, ex MLA and CPI(M) state secretary spoke on the subject. AR Sindhu chaired the seminar. Malini Meshta, general secretary, Karnataka State Mid Day Meal Workers Union gave the vote of thanks.