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Saturday, February 23, 2013

"Strike a success, another agitation if no talks with trade unions"

India News: After the lukewarm response it received, the two-day strike by the Central trade unions against the government's apathy towards the working class came up in the Lok Sabha on Friday, with some members warning that there could be another agitation if trade unions are not engaged in talks.

Raising the issue during zero hour, Gurudas Dasgupta (CPI), who is also leader of the All-India Trade Union Congress (AITUC), said 44 crore workers, who were the mainstay of production in the country, were not getting appropriate remuneration and the government was neglecting them.

Referring to the two-day strike, he said the trade unions did not want to resort to such actions but were forced to do so by the government. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh made an “innocent appeal through press” for talks. “The Prime Minister offers talks to trade unions through the press. Does he talk to the corporates also through the press?”

Mr. Dasgupta said the Prime Minister had formed a committee of four Ministers to talk to trade union leaders, but in the meeting that took place, Finance Minister P. Chidambaram was not present. Labour Minister Mallikarjuna Kharge also called trade union leaders for talks, but he had “nothing to offer.”

Mr. Dasgupta warned that if the government did not engage with trade unions, there would be another nationwide strike.

CPI(M) leader Basudeb Acharia and Janata Dal (United) chief Sharad Yadav associated themselves with Mr. Dasgupta’s views.

Meanwhile, the Left parties have congratulated the working class, employees and other sections of the working people who made the two-day general strike a “magnificent success.”

“The workers struck work in all industries and commercial sectors. The strike was effective in the petroleum, coal, mining, port and dock, banking and insurance sectors. State government offices were also affected by the strike. The participation of workers in the unorganised sectors was also notable,” a statement issued by the Left parties here said.

“The Central government has to immediately address the demands raised by the general strike and take steps to fulfil them, otherwise bigger actions will follow. This is a wake-up call to the government to stop the anti-people and anti-working class policies,” said the statement issued jointly by Prakash Karat, general secretary of Communist Party of India (Marxist); S. Sudhakar Reddy, general secretary, Communist Party of India; Debabrata Biswas, general secretary of the All India Forward Bloc; and T.J. Chandrachoodan, general secretary of the Revolutionary Socialist Party.

Violence, including attack on those who turned up for work in Noida, burning of their cars and other vehicles, and mowing down of a trade unionist in Ambala district of Haryana, marred the first day of the two-day all-India general strike called by 11 central trade unions.

In Ambala, local leader Narinder Singh was fatally knocked down by a State-owned roadways bus, which he and his fellow protesters attempted to stop.

The strike call evoked mixed response across the country on Wednesday.

The functioning of banks, insurance companies, transport, coal, telecom and oil industries, central and State government undertakings, and Central/State government offices in many places was affected. Kerala, Tripura, Bihar were among the worst-affected States.

During the two-day strike in Delhi, government offices functioned as usual but not many autos or taxis were seen on the road. In some States there was only lukewarm response.

Stray incidents of violence occurred in Odisha and Karnataka. There was only partial response in Tamil Nadu with shops open as usual, and taxis and auto-rickshaws plying normally in some cities. Workers took out rallies, held protest meetings, dharnas near their place of work in various cities across the country.

Commuters, patients, students, vendors, and those arriving at or going to airports, bus stands, railway stations and offices were put to great hardship due to non-availability of transport in many places.

However, flight and train operations remained unaffected. The unions were demanding, among other things, check on price rise, more employment generation, better social security to the unorganised workers, ban on contract labour system, and fixing minimum wages at Rs. 10,000 a month.
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