February 19, 2023
Construction Workers Federation Holds National Conference

Arka Rajpandit

THE 10th all India conference of the Construction Workers Federation of India (CWFI) that concluded on February 13, 2023 asserted its united resolve to intensify struggles against neoliberal policies aggressively pursued by the Modi led BJP government at the centre. It called upon the working class in general and construction workers in particular to get ready to unleash more combative direct class actions to defeat the corporate-communal policy regime and make headway for a change in the policy regime. The resolve of the conference is to heighten the consciousness, sharpen the resistance, combat and safeguard the hard-won rights of the construction workers.

The 10th of the CWFI began with a massive public rally held at Sonaram High School ground, Bharalumukh, Guwahati on February 11, 2023. Guwahati City witnessed the biggest ever militant working class mobilisation in the recent times, more than 25,000 workers participated in the rally coming from different parts of Assam. The enthusiasm and militant mood of the workers and other sections of toiling people was reflected in sloganeering. Tapan Sen, CITU general secretary was the main speaker of the public rally.

Addressing the mammoth rally, Tapan Sen said, the17th Conference of CITU and the National Convention of Workers called by the central trade unions had given a clarion call to oust this divisive and anti-national RSS-BJP government from power. The urgent task ahead, at this juncture, is to take this message of how the regime is anti-people, anti-worker and anti-national to the grassroots, to every house across the country. Highlighting the issues of construction workers, he said the Modi government diluted the hard-won rights of construction workers – the BOCW Act, 1996 and Interstate Migrant Workers Act, 1979 – by amalgamating them with anti-worker labour codes. The BJP government weakened the construction workers welfare board and diluted the cess collection; thousands of crores of rupees remained unspent; the central government and state governments in a number of states patronise huge cess evasion of corporate construction companies with an aim of more expropriation. He called upon the construction workers to scale up their struggles to defend the rights and make every worker battle ready for militant combat offensive. Lashing out at the RSS-BJP government, Tapan Sen said, this ruling dispensation is unable to listen to just demands of working people. On April 5, workers and peasants of India will mobilise in lakhs to send a clear message to this regime in a language that it understands, that it will not be allowed to sell out the country.

Sukhbir Singh and V Sashi Kumar, outgoing president and general secretary of the CWFI, Debanjan Chakraborty, vice-president, CWFI, Manoranjan Talukdar, MLA and Tapan Sharma, general secretary, CITU Assam, also addressed the rally which was presided over by Udbhab Barman, chairman of the reception committee and former MP and veteran Left leader of Assam. CITU president K Hemalata, CITU treasurer         M Saibabu, CITU secretaries Swadesh Devroye and Kashmir Sigh Thakur also attended the public rally. The public rally adopted a resolution in favour of the Left Front candidates and the candidates of democratic secular forces in the assembly elections to Tripura. Over Rs 33, 000 was collected immediately for the Tripura solidarity fund. The rally condoled the tragic mass loss of lives caused by a devastating earthquake in Turkey and Syria.

The inaugural session of the conference began in the afternoon on February 11, 2023 with flag hoisting. CWFI outgoing president Sukhbir Singh, hoisted the red flag amidst thunderous slogans; delegates and guests paid floral tributes to the martyr’s column. The venue of the conference, Pragjyoti Cultural Complex, is named after former CWFI national treasurer Comrade KV Jose and the conference manch is named after former  working committee members of CWFI, Comrade Bisweswar Paswan and Comrade Asit Mukherjee.  Reception committee chairman Udbhab Barman warmly welcomed the delegates and said this conference sill surely engage itself in discussing the complex situation facing the entire country in all aspects, while discussing the construction workers own specific issues and chart out a course of actions to defeat the divisive and authoritarian designs of the ruling classes.

Inaugurating the conference CITU president K Hemalata said, CWFI being the largest sectoral federation of the CITU, has to play an important role in unifying the class, intensifying the struggles, defeating neoliberal policies and the communal divisive forces and the imperialist machinations. She said, BOCW Act and construction workers welfare board is a product of persistent struggles of CWFI. She highlighted how under this Modi led BJP regime, registered workers are being deprived of getting stipulated social security benefits, and how therefore it is the class duty of the members and activists of the CWFI to link up the issues with policies of ruling class and expose the politics behind the policies. Emphasizing on the importance of the upcoming April 5th Delhi rally, she said extensive and intensive campaign should be carried out on specific demands of the construction workers in particular and the working class in general. Highlighting the recent working class struggles across the world, she said it shows the increasing discontent against the impact of the present policies.  She said that this conference will discuss and deliberate upon the complex challenges facing the construction workers and the working class as a whole and chart out a concrete program of actions to scale up the struggles against corporate-communal regime and divisive machinations.

The delegate session began in the evening with the election of various committees to conduct the conference. The presidium comprised the outgoing president and all the vice presidents of CWFI. The condolence resolution was placed by R Singaravelu, vice president, CWFI.

V Sashi Kumar placed the general secretary’s report in two parts. The first part analysed the systematic crisis of capitalism, growing inequality, hunger, worsening  unemployment scenario, imperialist aggressions, growing trade unionism, developing resistance struggles of the workers and the present economic, political and social situation in the country and reviewed the organisational activities of the CWFI in the intervening period since the ninth conference. He said, “We have to critically introspect our advance on concrete terms. This includes self-critical assessment of how effectively we have been able to unleash struggles to strengthen and protect the rights of the construction workers, reflection of our membership strength at the all India level, and state level, district level movements and strike actions.”

The second part of the general secretary’s report covers in detail the construction industry and its latest happenings. The Indian construction industry is the largest employer after agriculture, as the construction sector employs nearly 51 million people and contributes 11 per cent to the country’s GDP. The report noted “despite being the largest federation of construction workers, our membership corresponding to total registered workers is only 2.66 per cent; 97 per cent of the registered workers are still out of the purview of the CWFI.” He said the 10th all India conference must give a clarion call to build our presence in the organised sectors, strategic sectors and private sector construction companies for further expansion. The treasurer’s report and the statements of accounts was placed by Sheela Alex. A total of 42 delegates from 21 states and UTs deliberated upon the general secretary’s report.

The conference unanimously passed four resolutions: on April 5th  Mazdoor Kisan Sangharsh Rally; scrapping the four labor codes and protecting the BOCW Act, 1996 and Interstate Migrant Workers Act, 1979; defeating the communal divisive forces and appealing the working people of Tripura to vote for the candidates  of Left and democratic forces. The general secretary’s report, the treasurer’s report and the future tasks were unanimously adopted by the conference. K Mahantesh, convenor of the credentials committee placed the credentials report. 340 delegates representing the 11, 93, 602 members participated in the conference and out of that 289 were male and 45 were female. CITU secretary Kashmir Singh Thakur placed the centre’s observations and said, “The present situation provides us with immense opportunities to expand the organisation, and we have to channelise the discontent of the workers into struggle actions.”

The conference elected a new leadership of 38 office bearers with K Hemalata as president, U P Joseph as general secretary and Ramchandran as treasurer. The conference also elected a new working committee of 132 members.

K Hemalata made the concluding remarks, thanked the Assam state committee of the CWFI and the CITU and the reception committee for the good arrangements for the conference.