After the experience both of Europe and Asia, anyone who speaks of non-class politics and non-class socialism, ought simply to be put in a cage and exhibited alongside the Australian kangaroo or something like that.
The urban and rural working class population of India is living through a life of intolerable and unutterable misery, injustice and economic oppression. In other words it can be best described as a ‘cold day in hell’. The condition of the urban and rural laborers working in unorganized sector and the unorganized laborers of the organized sector is worst amongst them. The fruits of the progress achieved in the last twenty years of the market liberalisation and privatisation have been enjoyed by the top 15 percent of the total Indian population while the gulf between the rich and poor has yawned to an unprecedented scale. In these twenty years of rapid economic development, the condition of the toiling masses has worsened. Government data alone is enough to justify this claim. The workers have only got promises after promises from successive governments but not a single drop of development trickled down to their dark world.
Whatever legal rights the workers had managed to achieve through prolonged struggles and sacrifices, have been mostly snatched back .The age old labor laws present in the statute book, insufficient enough as they are, have been rendered meaningless in practice. Whatever new laws are introduced by the government as ostentation, are either mostly ineffective and hypocritical or they are pro-capitalist. The labor laws are not only intriguing but also the whole process of justice is so complex and lengthy that the laborers hardly have any chance to get justice .The number of labor dept offices including the officers and the staffs are vastly inadequate and instead of fulfilling its duty of enforcing the labor laws these labor departments often end up acting as an agent of the industry owners .Even the number of labor courts and industrial tribunals are grossly inadequate. For the toiling masses of India, the fundamental right to life as guaranteed by the Constitution has been rendered meaningless. Civil liberty and democratic rights bear no meaning to them. The state machinery is always geared to suppress, directly or indirectly, strike and all the democratic means of resistance through the draconian laws and despotic bureaucracy.
The basic rights such as minimum wages, proper limit of the working hours, ESI, job card etc. are not available to more than 90% of the industrial and rural laborers of India. Even after toiling for 12-14 hours at a stretch in hellish, unhygienic and dangerous conditions they hardly get enough money needed to fulfill their basic needs. Even in these days of severe price-rise, most of the factory workers are paid a paltry sum, ranging between 1800 to 4500 rupees per month for 8 hours of work. In case of death or injury due to the accidents occurring frequently in the workplaces, they are hardly compensated and often not even provided with the basic medication as well, and rather sacked from the job. Most of the workers here are contract, casual, wage and piece-rate laborers and not even a single labor law is implemented for them.
Under these circumstances, the workers of India, would like to let the Parliament and the Government Of India know that, they are not going to bear any more this anarchy and the atrocities meted to them. Enough is enough! They want justice and our rights back and we will regain it at any cost. This is just the beginning of a long campaign. And as a first step towards this, they are planning to present this charter to the people’s representatives occupying the Parliament and also the parties ruling at the centre for a dignified life,for living by fulfilling our basic necessities of life, for their just and democratic demands and for gaining their legitimate share in the development of this country.
This charter has 26 categories of demands which represent almost all the major needs and political demands of the working class people of India.
On the forthcoming labor day (1 May, 2011) workers from several parts of the country will knock on the doors of the parliament in Delhi, along with this charter signed by thousands of workers across the country.
As for the present, the workers are not asking the deaf occupying the parliament for anything more than just implementing the basic rights guaranteed by the constitution of the land, for us. We are only asking for the minimum requirements a human being needs to live. The struggle of the working class has a long way to go but for the time being let us start this long journey with the demand for our democratic rights, as a first step.
The significance of this movement is that the workers are presenting their demands under the combined banner of the ‘Workers’ Charter Movement’ instead of different banners. Fighting different owners separately divides the workers and thus weakens the whole struggle, which ultimately benefits the industrialists. For this reason, the ‘Workers’ Charter Movement’ is presenting the common demands of the whole working class, in front of the rulers of the country. Some independent labor organisations and unions active in different parts of the country and a labor journal played a major role in formulating the demands in this charter and a few small labor assemblies (Mazdoor Panchayats) also aided in this process; and they have taken the initiative to draft the charter and take it to the workers, but at the same time it also has to be clarified that this movement is not under the banner of any union, organisation or political party at all. The aim is that the ‘Workers’ Charter Movement’ should become the struggle of all those working people, whose demands are mentioned in the charter, thus to transform it into a unified struggle of the whole working class of the country. This movement is intended to run in several phases and cycles. A symbolic start is being made on the occasion of the 125th anniversary of the historic ‘May Day’. This is the first step towards the long march for the liberation of the working class.
Today, this start is a symbolic one because the vast working class population is divided and unorganised. But this cannot remain as such for long. The number of urban and rural proletariat along with the semi-proletariats in India, is about 75 crores. It will also gain support of the lower middle class, who are constantly been oppressed by this suppressive regime. When organised, it would become a very strong force. The demand for the rights of this three-fourth of the total population would go a long way. Since the past few months, teams of workers and activists have been visiting industrial areas, workers colonies, workers lodges, lanes and by-lanes in the slums – where ever workers live, to educate the workers about the charter and get it signed by them. Night meetings are held and street meetings and cultural shows are organised to popularise the charter in several areas.
We appeal to all the people to build solidarity and stand by this movement. If you are a worker then don’t forget to sign this charter yourself, get it signed by your fellow workers and also be present at Jantar Mantar (New Delhi) on 1st May. If you are not a worker, go to the labor colonies and slums around you, educate them about the charter and its implications, get it signed by them and come with us at the Jantar Mantar to express solidarity on the said date. Though the signatures in this charter should be of the worker’s alone but whoever agrees with these demands should certainly reach Delhi to express solidarity.
The middle class is evidently unhappy with the rampant corruption in our system but isn’t it the biggest corruption which constantly denies the workers, the fruit they yield with their blood and tears? There can be no justice when 80% of the population lives in continuous denial of their basic rights. Anguish of the people is mounting high and the day this dormant volcano wakes up, the pillars of the heaven will be terribly shaken for sure.
The beginning of every long journey starts with a small step. We invite you to join and stand by this campaign for rights and justice.
- Convening Committee, Worker’s Charter Movement – 2011.
Our culture is a people's culture; our cultural workers must serve the people with great enthusiasm and devotion, and they must link themselves with the masses, not divorce themselves from the masses. In order to do so, they must act in accordance with the needs and wishes of the masses. All work done for the masses must start from their needs and not from the desire of any individual, however well-intentioned. It often happens that objectively the masses need a certain change, but subjectively they are not yet conscious of the need, not yet willing or determined to make the change. In such cases, we should wait patiently. We should not make the change until, through our work, most of the masses have become conscious of the need and are willing and determined to carry it out. Otherwise we shall isolate ourselves from the masses. Unless they are conscious and willing, any kind of work that requires their participation will turn out to be a mere formality and will fail. The saying "Haste does not bring success" does not mean that we should not make haste,
but that we should not be impetuous; impetuosity leads only to failure. This is true in any kind of work, and particularly in the cultural and educational work the aim of which is to transform the thinking of the masses. There are two principles here: one is the actual needs of the masses rather than what we fancy they need, and the other is the wishes of the masses, who must make up their own minds instead of our making up their minds for them.----(Quotation from Chinese Revolutionary Leader Mao Tse-Tung )