Vol. XL No. 45 November 06, 2016

Odisha All-Set for the 15th CITU All India Conference


THE 15th conference of CITU will be held in the coastal town of Puri in Odisha on November 26- 30, 2016. Over 2000 delegates, fraternal delegates and guests will be coming to Puri to participate in the conference. Over 400 of them will be women. The conference will be discussing all issues of concern for the working class and all toiling sections of society. It will review the activities of CITU during the period since its 14th conference in Kannur in 2013 keeping in view the directions and decisions of the last conference and formulate concrete tasks for the next three years. 

The venue of the conference will be named ‘Samar Mukherjee Nagar’ after the veteran trade union leader and former general secretary of CITU who passed away at the age of 100. The dais will be named ‘R Umanath Manch’ after another veteran trade union leader and former vice president of CITU. The place where the public meeting will be held will be named ‘K L Bajaj – S Prasanna Kumar Nagar’, after K L Bajaj, vice president and Prasanna Kumar, secretary of CITU, both of who passed away after the last conference. The place on the beach where cultural forms and activities will be displayed will be named after another veteran leader of the trade union movement and former vice president of CITU ‘Parsa Satyanarayana Manch’. Prominent arches near the venue will be named after Kali Ghosh and Arati Dasgupta, both former office bearers of CITU.

It is for the first time since CITU was founded in 1970 that its national conference is being held in Odisha. After some initial hesitation, the Odisha state committee of CITU met in January 2016 and decided to host the 15th conference of CITU in Puri.  It took this as an opportunity as well as a challenge. In addition to making all the necessary arrangements for the success of the conference, the state committee also set before itself the tasks of taking the message of the conference to all parts of the state, strengthen the organisation and develop cadres on this occasion. It has formulated its programmes keeping in mind these objectives

The reception committee for the conference was formed in a well attended meeting at Bhubaneswar in February, with Jagannath Patnaik, former president of the All India Bar Council as chairman, Lambodar Naik, president of CITU state committee as working president and Bishnu Mohanty, general secretary of the CITU state committee as the general secretary. Even before the reception committee was formed, extended state committee meetings of several state level unions in transport, electricity, construction, anganwadi, ASHA, midday meal, etc were held. District level general body meetings were held in many districts to inform about the decision of the state committee. Meetings of state leadership of fraternal trade union organisations in insurance, banks, central and state government employees, postal, BSNL etc were held and efforts were made to actively involve them in the preparations for the conference. The decision to host the all India conference of CITU created enthusiasm among the CITU cadres, activists and also its well wishers across the state. By the end of March 2016, district level preparatory committees for the conference were held in 23 out of the total 30 districts in the state.

Four jathas were planned to traverse the entire state and take the message of the 15th conference and its significance for all sections of toiling people of Odisha and also to popularise the 12 point charter of demands of the joint trade union movement. Three jathas started from three different points on April 1. The first jatha led by Radharaman Sarangi, vice president of the state committee, started from Bhubaneswar, the second led by Biman Maity, secretary of the state committee, started from Rourkela and the third led by Biswanath Mohapatro, state committee member started from Nayagarh. The fourth jatha from Berhampur was held later. The four jathas covered almost all districts in the state. Thousands of leaflets were distributed and hundreds of meetings including street corner meetings, public meetings, meetings in the residential areas of workers and at bus stands were held on the occasion. Gate meetings were also held in industrial areas like NALCO CPP Gate, GMR Energy Power Plant, NTPC/TTPC plant in Talcher, Rourkela Steel Plant etc. Thousands of workers, mostly construction workers, mine workers, anganwadi employees, ASHAs, midday meal workers, road transport workers, railway contract workers, industrial workers, beedi workers, fishers etc participated in these meetings. In some places middle class employees and youth also participated. The workers themselves made all the arrangements for the food and night stay of the leaders in the jathas as well as for the meetings.

The CITU members responded magnificently to the call for funds. An overwhelmingly large part of the CITU membership in Odisha is from the unorganised sector or the unorganised segment of the organised sector. The mines workers, construction workers, scheme workers etc contributed the major part of the funds collected for the conference so far. In addition to funds, several scheme workers have come forward to contribute in kind, in the form of rice, coconuts, muri etc. The mass collection of funds through small groups of activists of CITU along with those of fraternal mass organisations is also receiving good response from the common people, particularly in the residential areas of the poor and unorganised workers.

The state committee gave an innovative call to take the message of the conference to the homes and kitchens of CITU members. It printed the logo of the 15th conference on small bags and distributed over 15,000 bags to CITU members across the state with the request to put a fistful of rice in it each time the family cooks its food. This call received very good response, particularly from the poorer sections like the mines workers, construction workers, and scheme workers etc. In addition to their monetary contribution, these workers took these bags home and returned them full with rice. Some workers emptied the bags at the local CITU offices and took them back home to be filled up again. Over 7 tons of rice has so far been collected in this fashion from different parts of the state.

Several subcommittees were constituted for performing different jobs related to the conference. The seminar subcommittee decided to conduct 20 seminars all over the state. The overall plan was to conduct seminars on important issues concerning the toiling people highlighting the alternatives. Efforts were made to involve intellectuals and well wishers from wide section of society in these seminars. The seminars started in May 2016 and since then 2-3 or more seminars were held every month. Till now 15 seminars have been completed. These were held in different parts of the state including Bhubaneswar, Cuttack, Paradeep, Rourkela, Angul, Baripada, Baleswar, Nayagarh, Berhampur and Kendrapara. Around 4000 people including advocates, doctors, journalists etc in addition to workers and employees participated in these seminars. Two seminars are scheduled in the first week of November and three are planned to be held in Puri during the conference period.

The Odisha Development Trust with Janardan Pati as convenor extended lot of help by taking the responsibility to conduct many of these seminars.

The issues covered so far include ‘Poverty and Unemployment’, ‘India’s Human Development’, ‘Right to Energy’, ‘Mahanadi Water Dispute’, ‘Tribals and Odisha Development’, ‘Workers for Peasants and Peasants for Workers’, ‘Labour Law Reforms’, Communalism and Social Harmony’, ‘Seventh Pay Commission’, ‘Role of Public Financial Institutions in the Development of the Country’, ‘Unorganised Workers’ Social Security’, ‘Role of Public Sector’, ‘Make in India’, ‘Medicines for People or People for Medicines’ and ‘Challenges for Working Class Unity’. Eminent economists and intellectuals like Prabhat Patnaik, Jayati Ghosh, Prabir Purkayastha, river water expert Srinivas Chokkakula participated in these seminars. In addition, Jiten Choudhury, MP from Tripura, Vijoo Krishnan, joint secretary of All India Kisan Sabha, Sri Krishna Deva Rao, vice chancellor of National Law University of Odisha, Professor Bijaya Bahidar, M Krishnan, secretary general of the Confederation of Central Government Employees, Srikant Mishra, leader of All India Insurance Employees’ Association addressed the seminars. A K Padmanabhan, president, Tapan Sen, general secretary, J S Majumdar, Swadesh Dev Roye and Hemalata, national secretaries of CITU also addressed these seminars.

Campaign through wall writing has started in several industrial and mining areas of the state though it was interrupted due to the heavy rains during this period in several parts of the state. The various subcommittees related to volunteers, food, reception, accommodation, decoration, souvenir, cultural programmes, health, sanitation etc have all met and are getting ready with their plans to meet the requirements of the delegates who will be reaching Puri from all over the country from November 24 onwards.

The reception committee has also planned for a massive procession and public meeting on November 26. Thousands of workers including from far off places like Rourkela and the interior mining areas will be coming to participate in the rally. Some district committees have already booked dharmshalas in Puri for their contingents who will have to reach 2-3 days in advance as there are not enough trains from their places to carry them all on one day. Cultural programmes like famous folk dances of Odisha, dramas etc will be held on the beach near the venue every evening from November 26-30.

Despite being organisationally not so strong, the Odisha state committee of CITU and the reception committee are making all out efforts to make the 15th conference of CITU a memorable event.