THE two-day general strike called by the Central Trade Unions on January 8 and 9, 2019 will go down as an important landmark in the history of the working class movement in India.
The strike saw the participation of around 20 million workers and employees belonging to all sectors – organized, unorganized and government. Workers and employees of public sector enterprises, private manufacturing units, road transport, construction, mining, plantation, central government, state government, banking, insurance anganwadi, asha, mid-day meal, and educational institutions joined the strike across the country.
The strike by road transport workers affected transport services in many states. All the tea gardens in Assam, West Bengal and Kerala were shut due to the strike. Several MNC enterprises in Maharashtra and Karnataka were shut. Thousands of trade union activists and leaders were arrested, or, detained in the course of the strike.
The general strike had its maximum impact resulting in a shutdown in Kerala, Assam, Odisha, West Bengal and Tripura. In West Bengal, despite the attacks by the Trinamool Congress and police repression, the strike was successful in various sectors. Similarly, in Tripura too, there was a bandh-like situation, despite the repression and efforts of the BJP government and ruling party.
A notable feature was the protest actions in the rural areas called by the Bhoomi Adhikar Andolan and Kisan Sabha. Rasta and rail roko agitations were widespread in the rural areas.
Coming after the September 2, 2016 one-day strike, this sweeping action manifested the mounting anger and discontent of the working class against the vicious neo-liberal policies of the Modi government and its efforts to push through anti-labour laws.
The Modi government has been taking step after step to privatize public sector enterprises, including in the vital sector of defence production. It has not bothered to hold consultations with trade unions on various matters directly affecting workers’ rights. There has been increasing resort to use of draconian laws to suppress workers’ struggles and to arrest trade union leaders.
The two-day general strike has come after a series of strike struggles and protests by different sections of the working people. The August 9 jail bharo andolan of trade unions and kisan sabha, the massive September 5 mazdoor-kisan sangharsh rally in Delhi and the November 29-30 kisan mukti march – all testified to the rising new fighting spirit among the working class and the peasantry.
The Modi government is hostile to the working class movement and treats the legitimate demands of the workers with contempt. This was manifested on January 8, the first day of the strike, in the Lok Sabha when the Union Minister for Labour introduced the Trade Unions (Amendment) Bill 2019, which will give the government arbitrary powers over the recognition of Central Trade Unions. The labour minister also arrogantly dismissed the general strike as having had no impact.
It has become clear to the working people of the country that there will be no respite from the anti-worker, anti-people policies of the Modi government. The two-day general strike has given a signal – the working class of the country will undoubtedly join the political battle in the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections to defeat the BJP and the Modi government.
(January 9, 2019)