January 29, 2023

Workers Rally: 2023 will be a Year of Struggles

Vasanth N K

NATIONAL College Grounds in Bangalore was painted red on January 22 with the public rally concluding the 17th All India Conference of Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU). Workers wearing CITU red caps and holding red flags thronged the venue from the afternoon.

Tapan Sen, general secretary of CITU addressing the rally of over 20,000 workers, declared that the year 2023 would be a year of struggles. He said, “During this period of creeping crisis, the government is supporting the direct participation of corporations in the management of the economy, resulting in a perversion of the very economic foundations of the country. They want a system wherein workplaces are union-free.” 

He said that the CITU had foreseen this and would take it up as a serious task of the workers' movement to resist this trend. He gave the example of the strike of the electricity workers due to which even the BJP-ruled states could not privatise power distribution. He declared, “We have to go ahead in this direction aggressively; the 17th CITU all India conference has taken this pledge. The year 2023 will be a year of struggles.” He declared support for all ongoing struggles in Karnataka, specifically mentioning the indefinite Anganwadi workers' struggle starting the next day.

He added that CITU had given a decisive call to throw this divisive and anti-national government out of power. The urgent task ahead, at this juncture, is to take this message – of how this regime is anti-people, anti-society, and anti-nation – to the grassroots, to every house across the country.  

He informed the public that all the central trade unions would be meeting in a convention on January 30 to intensify the united struggles of the working class to put an end to the ongoing destruction of our country. 

On April 5, the workers and peasants of India will mobilise in lakhs to send a message to this vindictive regime. This government is unable to listen to logic. Therefore the message to the government, that it will not be allowed to sell out this country, will be given to it in a language that it understands. All its attempts to destroy the self-reliant foundations of this country and to sell the nation to capitalist and imperialist interests will be met with defiance and resistance, he warned.

K Hemalata, president of CITU, thanked various sections of Karnataka workers – scheme workers, panchayat workers, industrial workers and all others – who donated their one-day wages to the conference fund.  She said that the problems of all sections of workers had been discussed in the conference and a plan of action had been drawn. Hemalata called upon the workers to intensify struggles for achieving their demands. 

Even in the states like Karnataka where ‘double engine’ governments exist, the problems of workers and the people are not being solved. In fact, anti-people and anti-worker policies are being vigorously pursued. Only Kerala LDF government stands apart and has been following pro-worker, pro-peasant policies. This was particularly very clear in the Covid pandemic period. But implementation of plans and policies of Kerala LDF is being obstructed and that has to be resisted, Hemalata added.

S Varalaxmi, president of CITU Karnataka unit, congratulated and thanked the workers, small traders and citizens of Karnataka for donating generously to the conference. She said that a big part of the conference fund came from people. Interacting with the workers in a question-and-answer mode, she asked if anyone of them had seen their income rising during Covid pandemic. The workers shouted, “No”.  “But the income of Adani and Ambani has increased substantially,” she responded. She called upon workers to unleash struggles for  wage increases and other demands. She asked who produces goods and services for the country. Workers shouted, “We”. “But Modi says corporates are only productive and workers should only serve them. Do we accept that?” she asked. Workers shouted, “No”. Varalaxmi warned the workers not to get swayed and divided by hatred based on caste, or religion and gave a call to maintain unity, quoting Akkamahadevi, a 12th-century poet. 

MS Meenakshisundaram, general secretary of CITU Karnataka unit, who addressed the rally despite a leg fracture on the first day of the conference, called the workers to play a decisive role in throwing out Karnataka BJP government of the ‘40 per cent Commission’ fame in the upcoming elections. 

He reminded that the BJP never won a majority on its own and all its governments in the state, including the current one, were illegitimate based on ‘Operation Kamala’. BJP governments made several promises which have not been fulfilled, rather have taken anti-worker and anti-people policies. These policies have been resisted and not been allowed to be implemented, he said.

He gave the example of the four labour code bills passed and the treacherous increase of working hours from 8 to 12 hours during the pandemic. “These bills were passed into law, but could not be implemented. But this government needs to be defeated to roll back these policies and implement pro-worker policies,” he said. He called upon the workers to also question the Congress and JD(S) on anti-worker and anti-people policies and insist on alternative policies.

All India office bearers and state leaders of CITU, and U Basvaraj, CPI(M) state secretary shared the dais. K Mahantesh, state secretary, welcomed the gathering and  BN Manjunath proposed the vote of thanks.

There was a series of cultural programmes before the address of leaders and some in between.  Progressive artist Janni (Janaradhan) and Chinthan Vikas Musical Troupe from Mysore, sang revolutionary songs. All-women group of Anganwadi workers from Koppal district performed Dollu Kunitha (a folk dance form in which performers play the drum as they dance). Another group of Anganwadi workers from Basvakalyana performed Kolata (similar to Dandiya). Gangadhar and troupe from Ramanagara district enthralled the audience by playing Thamate (a variety of Drums) vigorously. A student troupe from Shantinagara in the city performed several song dances.

Awards for the ‘Seven Minute Challenge’ an all-India super short-film competition conducted as part of the conference were also given away in the rally. There were many entries in English, Tamil, Telugu and Kannada for the competition. Two films shared first and second prizes of Rs 50,000 and Rs 30,000 respectively. An audience prize of Rs 10,000 also was awarded.

Kesari Haravoo, director of the super short-film festival and Janni were felicitated.