CITU, AIKS & AIAWU to observe August 9 as ‘Save India’ Day
AUGUST 9 is an important day in our struggle for independence. It was on that day in 1942 that hundreds of thousands of people of our country came out on to the streets demanding the British imperialists ‘Quit India’, responding to the call for a ‘Do or Die’ battle to attain independence.
The country is now getting ready to celebrate 75 years of independence. Despite the advances that we have made in several fields, the result of the hard work of our workers, peasants, and other toiling people, the fruits of this advance remain beyond their reach. Besides, under the neoliberal regime, officially initiated in our country three decades back, the little gains that the toiling people have achieved through their struggles and sacrifices are being snatched away. The manufacturing capacities and self reliance that we have attained through our public sector is being undermined. Public sector, the wealth of our nation, and our natural resources are being handed over to private corporates, both domestic and foreign.
This process has gained momentum since the Modi led BJP government came to power at the centre. It has reached its peak during the Covid 19 pandemic. The Modi government treated the pandemic and associated lockdowns as a ‘God sent’ opportunity to hasten the neoliberal process. During this period when people were suffering, when crores of people lost their jobs and incomes and were pushed into hunger and poverty, the Modi government did nothing to provide any relief to them. Instead, all its measures were intended to facilitate loot of our country and its people by the corporate classes, both domestic and foreign. Its criminal negligence in strengthening public health infrastructure, in ensuring adequate medicines and oxygen and ramping up vaccine production and making it available to all has resulted in avoidable deaths and suffering for millions of our people. It was during this period that the farm laws aimed at changing our small peasant based agriculture into corporate agriculture were passed; the labour codes to deprive the workers of their basic right to organise and collectively fight for their rights have been passed. The entire public sector is being decimated.
The cruel obstinacy of this government and its utter servility to international finance capital is blatantly displayed in its refusal to provide relief to the people through cash transfers and free food grains while doling away huge tax concessions to its corporate cronies. Most of the advanced capitalist countries have provided cash transfers to revive domestic demand and stimulate economic activity, though this is detested by neoliberalism. But, the Modi government is not ready to do this, instead, it is making false claims of the economy bouncing back.
It is estimated that 23 crore people have been pushed to below minimum wage level poverty during this period. 170,000 people lost their jobs every hour in the month of April 2020. Hunger and poverty have risen. Malnutrition, particularly among children, has increased to alarming levels. Pew Research Centre has estimated that during the last one year, the number of people living below the poverty line in our country has increased from 6 crores to 13.4 crores. 59.3 percent of our middle class people have slipped into poverty.
On the other hand, the wealth of Indian billionaires increased by 35 per cent during the lockdown period. Since March 2020, when the countrywide lockdown was announced, the wealth of the top 100 billionaires in our country increased by Rs 12,97,822 crores. The increase in wealth, of the top 11 billionaires of our country` during the pandemic alone, could sustain the NREGS scheme for 10 years. If these top 11 billionaires are taxed at just one per cent on the increase in their wealth during the pandemic, affordable medicines could be provided to our people by increasing allocation to the Jan Aushadhi scheme by 140 times.
Neoliberalism being pursued in our country is integral to the international finance capital dictated global neoliberalism. Its objective is to facilitate unbridled exploitation of the workers and maximisation of profits by the capitalist class and transfer of public wealth to big corporates through wholesale privatisation of public assets, services and natural resources. Since the advent of neoliberalism, taxes on the rich have declined globally. Attacks on the workers and the trade unions, which constitute the collective strength of the working class, have increased.
But the present systemic crisis, despite all the attacks on the wages and working conditions of the workers and their trade unions, has proved to be ineffective in reviving the economy, exposing the bankruptcy of neoliberal reforms. In fact, it is being increasingly realised that the capitalist system itself is incapable of meeting the basic needs and aspirations of the people and provide a decent and dignified living for them, despite the huge wealth that has been created.
But the Modi government is adamant in pursuing the same globally discredited neoliberal policies. It wants to pursue these policies by suppressing all opposition through authoritarian and autocratic measures. The use of the draconian sedition act, UAPA etc to suppress voices of dissent against its policies, the proclamation of the Essential Defence Services Ordinance to ban strike are reminiscent of the colonial regime. State machinery and various wings of the administration are used to intimidate those opposing the government and its leader, who is equated with the nation. Journalists, intellectuals, activists are thrown into jail and denied bail.
Through its obstinate pursuit of neoliberal policies, the Modi led BJP government seeks to negate the aspirations of our people who fought for independence from British imperialism in a ‘Do or Die’ battle, asking the British to ‘Quit India’. They dreamt of a future free from economic exploitation and social oppression. Under the camouflage of slogans like Atmanirbhar Bharat, Make in India etc, the Modi led BJP government is mortgaging the country and its people to big corporates including foreign monopoly companies. It is pushing our workers back into servility and conditions reminiscent of the colonial era.
Thus it has become imperative for the people of our country to rise in unity and come out again to save the country from the disastrous policies that destroy our economy, our self reliance and heap miseries on our people. The workers and the peasants who produce the wealth of our country have a key role in this struggle to save the country from disaster.
The working class has been continuously fighting the neoliberal policies and their impact since the last three decades, braving victimisation and harassment. 20 countrywide general strikes and innumerable sectoral strikes involving workers in almost all sectors have taken place during this time. The peasants and agricultural workers have been heroically fighting since more than one year against the farm laws facing the numerous hurdles and malign by the BJP government and the godi media. The joint platform of the workers and the joint platform of peasants have been synchronising their actions and extending solidarity and physical support to each others’ struggles.
However, given the stubborn refusal of the Modi led government to deviate from its neoliberal trajectory, this struggle needs to be further intensified and taken to new heights, to the stage of defiance and resistance, as the 16th conference of CITU has called for. This requires intensification of both the streams of struggle independently as well as jointly.
CITU’s ten day campaign from June 1-10, 2021, focussing on the major demands not only of the workers but also of the common people was taken up with this perspective. Lakhs of workers across the country participated in the campaign despite the Covid associated lockdowns, curfews and other restrictions. Now that the situation has considerably improved and the restrictions have been relaxed in most of the country, much larger campaigns and agitations have to be unleashed to reflect the anger of the workers against the Modi government’s policies. The battle front of workers’ struggles to challenge the anti-people, anti-national policies of the government must be fortified by involving the mass of the workers with the peasants and other sections of toiling people standing in their support.
The decision of CITU to observe August 9, 2021 along with AIKS and AIAWU as ‘Save India’ Day also reflects this determination to continue and intensify the struggle against neoliberal policies, to save the country from their disastrous impact. The demands raised through the campaign are not just the demands of the workers, peasants and agricultural workers. Burning issues of almost all sections of people like price rise, unemployment, job losses, compensation to the families of people who died due to Covid 19, universal vaccination etc are all included in the charter of demands. The fortnight long campaign culminating in massive demonstrations at district and block level on August 9, is intended to develop joint actions of the workers and peasants on their common issues up to the grassroots level and strengthen their unity. Intense preparations for the campaign have already started. Joint meetings of the state level office bearers of the three organisations have been held in almost all the states. These are being followed up with such meetings at the district, and wherever possible lower levels. The details of the number of villages, towns and industrial centres where the campaign will be held, the number of leaflets, posters etc to be distributed, the use of social media, the number of street corner/ group meetings and the mobilisation on August 9 are being meticulously planned in these meetings. The major local demands of the people are also being included. The purpose of the campaign is to convey the message that the working class and the peasantry, who comprise overwhelming majority of our society, are jointly fighting the anti- people and anti-national policies and place before the people an alternative to neoliberalism pursued by the Modi led government. It is meant to unite the people in opposition to the divisive agenda of the BJP.
It is heartening that the joint trade union platform and the Samyukta Kisan Morcha have also called for protest demonstrations on August 9 as well as fortnight campaign before that, on a similar set of demands. This August 9 will surely be another milestone in rekindling the spirit of our independence struggle and save our country from the predatory neoliberal policies and the disastrous divisive machinations of the BJP government. It should pave the way for our people to stride ahead to usher in alternative pro-people policies.
‘Save India Day’ Joint Campaign from 25 July – 8 August 2021
1. Scrap anti-worker Labour Codes and anti-people Farm Laws and Electricity Amendment Bill.
2. Ensure MSP at C2+50 per cent for all crops with guaranteed procurement
3. Roll back steep price rise in essential commodities, petrol, diesel, gas, cooking oil etc
4. No retrenchment or wage cuts. Compensate job and wage loss during pandemic. Register all migrant and unorganised sector workers. Create more jobs. Fill up all vacancies in government and public sector immediately
5. Ensure minimum wages and social security and pension to all workers including casual, contract, scheme workers and unorganised workers
6. Increase the budget allocation on MGNREGA to ensure minimum 200 days work at Rs 600 per day. Enact Urban Employment Guarantee Scheme. Withdraw the discriminatory advisory proposal for caste-based work and payment in MGNREGA
7. Cash transfer of Rs 7,500 per month for all non income tax paying families
8. 10 kg free food grains per person per month for the entire period of the Pandemic
9. Ensure immediate free and universal vaccination to all with priority to frontline workers. Ramp up vaccine production and bring the distribution under government regulation to ensure universal free vaccination within a definite time frame. Scrap the pro-corporate vaccine policy. Ensure compensation for Covid deaths as per Supreme Court direction
10. Allocate 6 per cent of GDP for health sector. Strengthen the public health system and the health infrastructure including recruiting the necessary health personnel to ensure adequate hospital beds, oxygen and other medical facilities to meet the Covid surge; Ensure non-Covid patients get effective treatment in government hospitals. Ensure availability of protective gear, equipments, wage rise etc for all health and frontline workers and those engaged in pandemic-management work including ASHAs and Anganwadi employees along with comprehensive insurance coverage for all of them.
11. Stop privatisation and disinvestment of PSUs and government departments. Withdraw the draconian EDSO.