HISTORICAL struggles of the workers and peasants have been unfolding during the last few days since the countrywide general strike called by the joint trade union movement on November 26, and the call for Delhi chalo and countrywide protest actions by the joint kisan movement on November 26-27.
The joint platform of trade unions declared its total solidarity with the peasants’ struggle including physical participation in their protest actions at all levels. Similarly the joint kisan movement extended support and solidarity to the general strike of workers.
What is highly significant is that this solidarity was not confined to mere statements. It was visible in actions at the ground level. The calls for solidarity and support by the two joint platforms found consonance among the broad masses of workers and peasants and moved them into action. Thousands of peasants and agricultural workers participated in the protest actions across the country on the day of strike. Thousands of workers are on the roads today in solidarity with the peasants’ protests. Massive protest actions were held all over the country on November 28, at the call of CITU, against the BJP government’s attacks to prevent peasants from reaching the national capital.
The peasants are heroically resisting the war like attacks unleashed by the BJP government. The workers’ strike on November 26, despite the threats of victimisation and vindictive actions including arrests was no less heroic. Thousands of workers across the country have been arrested on the day of the strike. Police in some states like Andhra Pradesh, Haryana etc have resorted to preventive arrests also. The government and several managements of public sector enterprises have issued circulars warning employees about disciplinary action for going on strike, organising mobilisations etc.
Despite this, the November 26 strike, the second general strike within the span of less than a year, saw huge and spontaneous response from all sections of the working class. The anger against the amendment to labour laws, further curtailing their rights and benefits was witnessed among the industrial workers, both in the public and private sectors. Thousands of workers, in different sectors across the country, who were aloof from strike action earlier, joined the strike; many more supported it actively.
As per the reports available so far:
The strike in the public sector saw increased participation of permanent employees, while contract workers totally participated in many public sector units. Strike was effective in most of the Bengaluru based public sector units; it was partial in the Hyderabad based PSUs. It evoked good response in the public sector units in Visakhapatnam. There was total strike in CEL in Ghaziabad, with the total participation of contract workers.
Strike was effective in the petroleum sector. It was near total in Digboi refinery and successful in Guwahati refinery. All contract workers participated in the strike in Bongaigaon refinery. All LPG bottling plants and product terminals of the entire north-east region were totally shut down due to the strike. It was total in ONGC project in Cachar and partial in Tripura. Strike was partial in BPCL and HPCL. Strike was successful in coal industry affecting production and dispatch. 80 per cent of the total 25 lakh electricity employees and engineers across the country have reported to have participated in the strike. Protest actions were held in more than 12,500 places in cities, towns, villages, power plants and substations in 615 districts out of the 680 districts in the country. Strike was massive in Salem and Vizag steel plants; it was partial in others, though contract workers participated in a big way. Workers in the captive coal and iron ore mines under SAIL were on near total strike.
Strike was near total in Calcutta, Cochin, Tuticorin, Paradip and Bhavnagar ports and Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT). Except in Mumbai, North Mangalore and Goa ports, workers in all the other major ports joined the strike.
Strike was near total in the insurance sector including life and general insurance all over the country and in the banking industry except in SBI and private banks. In most of the states, strike received massive response from the central and state government employees. In the others, government employees organised demonstrations in support of the strike
BSNL employees across the country joined the strike and also participated in the demonstrations in large numbers.
Over 3.5 crore transport workers have reported to have participated in the strike across the country despite the severe repression by the government and the police in many states forcing them to ply their vehicles. Autorickshaws, taxis, private buses were off the road. In several states, truck operators also stopped plying their vehicles in solidarity. The strike in the road transport sector was total in Kerala, West Bengal, Tripura, Bihar, Odisha, Assam etc.
The participation of workers in the private industrial clusters has been increasing since the general strike in 2015. This trend continued further in this strike. Workers in most of the major industrial clusters across the country – in West Bengal, Kerala, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Telangana, Delhi, Odisha, Jharkhand, Assam, Punjab etc joined the strike, as per the partial information available. In Tamil Nadu, while the industrial clusters in and around Kancheepuram were closed due to the heavy rains, workers in other industrial clusters joined the strike.
As per the report from the Construction Workers Federation of India, around 30 lakh construction workers participated in the strike on November 26. Over 700 union activists were arrested in Odisha, West Bengal and other states.
The scheme workers, anganwadi employees, ASHAs, midday meal workers, para teachers, teaching and non teaching staff of National Child Labour Projects, the different categories of scheme workers in the National Health Mission etc joined the strike en masse. Thousands of them participated in the protest demonstrations on the day of the strike.
Railway employees in several places in the country held protest demonstrations in solidarity with the striking working class in the country and against railway privatisation. In some zones and divisions, the joint platforms of railway employees’ organisations formed against railway privatisation, led the protests. In some places, the railway employees joined torch light processions in support of the strike on November 25th evening, along with other trade unions. Railway contract workers’ unions participated in the rallies and dharnas held on the day of the strike in several places. Rail Neer plant employees joined solidarity actions.
ITES employees in Kerala and Telangana joined the strike. The IT companies in the SEZ in Kerala were closed, along with the other companies.
Active participation of IT employees in the campaign was a significant feature in this strike. IT employees in Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal etc took initiative in designing and widely circulating the posters, slogans, and popularising the message of the strike through social media, wall writing etc. IT employees also participated in motorbike rallies on the eve of the strike.
Indian seafarers on sea in Indian and foreign vessels owned by Shipping Corporation of India, Dredging Corporation of India, Director Shipping Services (DSS – Andaman), Essar Shipping etc sent solidarity messages from around the world. Seamen working in several foreign vessels also sent solidarity messages.
Retired employees and pensioners and their organisations fully supported the strike and many of them actively campaigned for its success.
STRIKE IN THE STATES
The strike took the shape of bandh in states like West Bengal, Kerala, Tripura, Assam, Odisha, in some districts in Jharkhand etc.
In Andaman and Nicobar Islands, postal and BSNL employees were on strike; mass dharna and public meeting was held in support of the strike in Port Blair.
Strike was a complete success in Andhra Pradesh despite cyclonic storm and heavy rains. Over 20 lakh workers participated in the strike as per initial reports. Preventive arrests were made in Krishna and West Godavari districts. Around one lakh workers participated in the rallies, bike rallies and processions and public meetings in pouring rain. Strike was total in postal, insurance and banks. SWF affiliated to CITU served strike notice in the state road transport corporation and all SWF members participated in the strike. Head load workers, construction workers, autorickshaw workers, aqua workers, cashew workers etc participated in the strike across the state. Anganwadi employees and ASHAs fully participated in the strike. 60-70 per cent municipal workers and health workers participated in strike in major corporations and municipalities.
Strike was total in Assam. Cities, town and suburban areas except Guwahati (due to the cremation of former chief minister Tarun Gogoi) came to a standstill due to the strike by transport workers. Construction workers played an important role in making the strike success, participating in the road blocks. Strike was successful in 40 tea gardens. Scheme workers actively participated in the strike. Sales promotion employees, shop employees, municipal workers etc were on strike. 500 workers were arrested.
The strike was highly successful in Bihar. Entire banking and insurance sectors were paralysed. Government employees participated in the strike. Construction, transport, beedi, fishers, rickshaw and auto drivers, railway contract workers, Rail Neer plant workers, anganwadi employees, midday meal workers, ASHAs, Speed Craft, safai karmacharis and parivahan mitras participated in the strike and in the rallies and demonstrations. Joint rallies and demonstrations were held in 35 out of the 38 districts with huge participation of CITU members.
In Chhattisgarh, there was complete strike in Dalli Rajhara and Hirri iron ore mines, in Kasmunda area and in Balco. Postal, insurance, income tax, RMS employees and medical representatives almost totally participated in the strike. In coalmines under SECL, strike was more than 60 per cent affecting production and dispatch. Around 50 per cent anganwadi employees joined the strike. Rallies were held in several places; peasants also participated in some of these.
Industrial and service sector workers in the NCR Delhi area participated in the strike and the processions. Strike was successful in Ghaziabad and Gautam Buddha Nagar of Uttar Pradesh despite the promulgation of ESMA by the BJP government in Uttar Pradesh, in an attempt to thwart the strike. Thousands of workers participated in processions in the workers’ colonies and residential areas in addition to those held in the industrial clusters. The police resorted to preventive arrests of CITU cadres. Airport employees’ union organised demonstration in front the import wing. Medical representatives were on total strike and held processions. Bank, insurance and BSNL employees in Ghaziabad joined the strike and held demonstrations. Electricity employees struck work.
In Gujarat, anganwadi workers and helpers, ASHAs joined the strike in several districts. There was total strike in Bhavnagar port.
In the Jammu region, construction workers, Border Roads Organisation (BRO) workers, ASHAs, hydro power project workers participated in the strike in Jammu and various towns in Kishtwar, Banihal, Udhampur and Kathua districts. Around 3,500 workers participated in the strike and demonstrations. Despite the highly adverse political and weather conditions in Srinagar, the workers in several sectors joined this strike and also the demonstrations. A joint demonstration was held in Srinagar, in which ASHA, anganwadi employees, midday meal workers, agricultural workers, daily wage workers in the electricity department, horticultural workers, construction workers etc participated. Around 3000 anganwadi employees participated in the demonstrations across the state.
Strike was successful in Jharkhand in the coal mines, iron ore mines of SAIL and was partial in the copper and bauxite mines. In HEC, only CITU and AITUC leaders and cadres joined the strike. Strike was total among the contract workers of IOC depot in Namkum in Ranchi district. The MGR rail lines that carry coal from Rajmahal to Farakka NTPC power plant were totally shut down. More than 100 coal workers of ECIL mines in Rajmahal project were arrested. Lafarge cement factory in Singbhum and ACC cement factory in Sindri remained closed.
There was total strike in road transport in Dhanbad, Dumka and Sahebganj districts. Construction workers, beedi workers and stone quarry workers joined the strike and held processions. Anganwadi employees and midday meal workers in seven districts totally joined the strike. Strike was total among the medical representatives. 70 per cent contract and 10 per cent permanent workers of DVC Maithon joined the strike. AIKS participated in road blockade in several places in support of the strike
November 26 national strike was a total success in Kerala. Around 1.6 crore workers participated in the strike including agricultural workers. Most of the shops and commercial establishments remained closed. Only very few private vehicles were seen on the roads. All public transport including KSRTC was off the road. Banks, insurance, postal services were almost paralysed; strike was total in the state public sector like Water Authority, KSRTC, KSEB; it was a grand success in central public sector like FACT, BSNL, and HLL; state and central government offices and cooperative institutions remained closed. Strike was a grand success in the unorganised sector, traditional industries, plantation, construction etc.
In Madhya Pradesh, passenger road transport in 20 districts was affected to the extent of 40- 60 per cent, due to the strike by the road transport workers. Production was stopped for three hours in Ultratech cement factory; in others there were demonstrations. There was good response to the strike among anganwadi employees and ASHAs. No demonstrations could be held in the state due to the imposition of Sec 144.
Strike was total or near total in the financial sector, including insurance and banking, among the state government and central government employees, in Maharashtra. Industrial workers in the industrial clusters of Nasik, Pune, Aurangabad, etc took part in the strike in a big way. Medical representatives, anganwadi employees, ASHAs, midday meal workers etc participated fully in the strike. Workers in the unorganised sector, like construction, brick kiln, head load, domestic workers, and agricultural workers etc, who were out of the purview of the mainstream trade union movement and did not participate in any strike earlier, participated in the strike this time. Joint demonstrations, human chains, rallies, processions, dharnas etc were held in most of the districts in the state with the participation of thousands of workers. Huge demonstrations were held in several places including Solapur.
Strike had seriously impacted daily life in Manipur. Around five lakh central and state and central government employees, bank, insurance employees, scheme workers, transport workers, street vendors, construction workers etc participated in the strike. Shops and women markets remained closed.
The strike totally paralysed the mining sector in Odisha. Paradip Port witnessed a massive strike. The iron ore mines and manganese mines in Koida area, in Barbil region were seriously affected. Contract workers affiliated to CITU in NTPC, Nalco in Angul, Nalco M&R Complex in Damanajodi participated in the strike. Strike was total in the State owned Nilanchal Ispat Nigam Ltd in Kalinganagar in Jajpur district. Electricity workers held protests in different districts. In JK Paper Mills, Rayagarha, 2,500 workers joined the strike. Strike was total among the medical representatives, who also played an important role in the strike in all districts. Transport workers in the unorganised segment were on strike throughout the state giving visibility to the strike. Construction workers joined the strike all over the state and participated in demonstrations, picketing, road blockades etc. Around 250 construction workers were arrested in Cuttack. Shops and commercial and business establishments were totally closed. Strike was partial among the scheme workers. Municipal workers in Bhubaneswar joined the strike and demonstrations. Domestic workers picketed the Doordarshan Kendra in Bhubaneswar. Rural workers in almost all districts joined the strike. Activists of kisan and other fraternal mass organisations joined the demonstrations.
In Tamil Nadu, 13 districts were shut down due to the cyclone and heavy rains. The strike was successful in all the other districts where a total of around 30,000 workers participated in the picketing and were arrested. Strike was 70 per cent in Ashok Leyland, MRF, Madras Refineries, TVS Lucas, TI Cycles and in the Ambattoor industrial area in Chennai. Strike was massive in BHEL plant in Trichy and Steel Plant is Salem.
Strike in Telangana was total in the beedi industry; unorganised sector workers including construction workers, loading and unloading workers, private road transport workers etc joined the strike. 60 per cent anganwadi employees and 70 per cent ASHAs joined the strike. Rallies and public meetings were held in 519 mandal centres in which over one lakh workers participated. E Seva employees in the state joined the strike. Significantly, 1,450 workers of two unions affiliated to BMS also participated in the strike.
The strike in Tripura was total throughout the state and is reported to be unprecedented. Though there was no picketing, people of the state made the strike a grand success. All the offices including banks and insurance offices were closed. Public transport was off the roads, markets and shops were shut. Irked by the response from the people, BJP goons attacked CITU workers, vandalised our offices and also some shops and vehicles.
Demonstrations and dharnas were held in several places in seven districts of Uttarakhand in which around 900 workers participated.
Strike was total and comprehensive in West Bengal. It took the shape of spontaneous bandh. Suburban railway services in all divisions of Sealdah and Howrah were stalled due to rail roko since early in the morning in hundreds of places. Common people supported the strike.
The markets in all districts were closed. Strike in private road transport was total in the districts and 70 per cent in Kolkata; private buses were off the road. 80 per cent Uber and Ola taxi drivers participated in the strike. The state government deployed 93 per cent buses but due to lack of passengers, they were withdrawn soon. National and state highways were blocked by the activists of CITU and other trade unions along with AIKS and AIAWU workers; in several places, police resorted to lathi charge in which around 1000 people were injured; around 400 CITU workers across the state were arrested.
Strike was total in jute mills, in the beedi industry in the small and medium steel and iron factories, in private passenger transport in all the districts and among medical and sales representatives; it was total in the banking sector with ATMs; the financial sector was seriously affected. 80 per cent cement workers, and 70 per cent automobile dealers’ employees joined the strike. 90 per cent strike was observed in the Indian Institute of Management, Joka. Shopping malls were totally closed. Strike was total among anganwadi employees and midday meal workers; it was significant among ASHAs; medical representatives.
Hundreds of processions were taken out all over the state with huge participation of workers. DYFI, SFI and AIDWA cadres also actively campaigned for the strike and participated in the demonstrations and processions on the day of strike.
In many places TMC goons have attacked the striking comrades in the picketing points.
The strike was recognised by the international trade union movement as an important part of the global workers’ struggles against neoliberalism and its attacks on the basic rights of the working class across the world. World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU) and many of its affiliated unions from various countries extended their support and solidarity to the strike. Some WFTU affiliated trade unions organised protest demonstrations in front of the Indian Consulates in their countries. International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) also extended its support to the strike.
The November 26, 2020 strike is over but the working class of India is fully engaged in active solidarity actions in support of the peasantry, from the very next day, November 27. Demonstrations protesting attacks on peasants, in solidarity with their demands are being organised every day, in almost every state, at the district/ block levels.
The joint platform of trade unions called upon the workers to fully support the call of the All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee for local level demonstrations from December 1. Building strong ties of solidarity at the lowest level between the workers and peasants by supporting each others’ struggles is the only way to intensify the struggle against the anti-worker, anti-famer and anti- national neoliberal policies and the divisive and polarising machinations of the BJP government led by Modi.