October 06, 2019

Onwards to Struggles

THE attacks on the working class and all sections of the working people have been intensifying since the Modi government came back to power in May 2019.  The economic slowdown and the deteriorating economic conditions are a product of the neo-liberal policies pursued by the Modi government in the past five years.  In order to get out of this crisis, the government has announced policies and changes in regulations to provide more concessions to the corporates and foreign capital. The tax cuts for corporates to the tune of Rs 1.45 lakh crore is the latest instance. The government, by offering bank credit, bailouts and tax cuts to corporates, is not increasing investment and employment but only ensuring that the capitalists continue to make profits. 

The brunt of the crisis, however, is being borne by the workers, peasants and agricultural workers and the unemployed.  There is a massive loss of jobs in all industries – automobile, textiles, construction and steel.

Unemployment has skyrocketed.  According to the latest figures of the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE), the number of unemployed reached 4.5 crore by the end of August, which is up by 1.1 crore over last year.  Further, weekly estimates point to an unemployment rate of an unprecedented 9.94 per cent, i.e., nearly 10 per cent, as of September 27.   Among youth, between 20 and 29 years of age, unemployment is currently at 28 per cent.

The Modi government is set on an indiscriminate drive for privatisation of the public sector enterprises. It has set itself a target of raising Rs 1.05 lakh crore by disinvestment of shares in the PSUs in the current financial year.  Privatisation of railways, defence production PSUs and 100 per cent FDI in coal mining have been announced.  These privatisation measures and the merger of public sector banks will lead to loss of thousands of jobs. 

On top of all these, the government is changing the labour laws wholesale and the Code on Wages and Code on Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions have already been adopted by Parliament.  The rights of workers and trade unions are being undermined.

The working class has begun to fight back against this onslaught.  The defence production workers went on a five-day strike against the corporatisation of the Ordinance Factories Board; the coal mine workers went on a highly successful one-day strike on September 24 against the government’s announcement of allowing 100 per cent FDI in commercial coal mining. 

This has been followed by the National Open Mass Convention of workers organised by the Central Trade Unions and independent federations on September 30.  The convention has given a nation-wide general strike call on January 8, 2020 against the anti-working class and anti-people policies of the Modi government.  An effective campaign to unite all sections of the working class to make this strike struggle a powerful action must be conducted.

As part of the growing resistance to the Modi government’s pro-corporate and pro-foreign capital policies, the Left parties had given a call for a week-long countrywide protest from October 10 to 16.  The focus is on demands concerning employment and wages.  The protest action should be able to mobilise different sections of the people to come out in defence of their livelihood and rights.

These struggles are inextricably linked to the fight against Hindutva authoritarianism which is attacking the democratic rights of all citizens and depriving them of civil liberties.