Simplifying the Bharat Bandh on 8th January 2020

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Most of us would probably think that it’s not been a week in a year and it has been so chaotic that there is a need for a strike throughout the country. But, the root cause of this ‘bandh’ is the protest against the ‘anti-people’ politics of the existing government by the 10 trade unions, who come under the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU).

What is a ‘bandh’?

A ‘bandh’ in the terms of a dictionary is an occasion when offices, businesses, schools, etc. close for a day and people stop working in order to show that they disagree with something or to show respect. (Cambridge Dictionary)

The front runners of the bandh

This bandh was declared by the following 10 trade unions in September 2019 itself:

Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC)

  • All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC)
  • Hind Mazdoor Sabha (HMS)
  • Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU)
  • All India United Trade union Centre (AIUTUC)
  • Trade Union Coordination Centre (TUCC)
  • Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA)
  • All India Central Council of Trade Unions (AICCTU)
  • Labour Progressive Federation (LPF)
  • United Trade Union Congress (UTUC)

The expected population participating in this bandh is about 25 crores which will be supported by about 60 student organizations who will be standing against the continuous increase in fees which supports the commercialization of education. Along with this, about 175 farmers and agricultural workers unions will also be a part of the bandh and are calling it the ‘Gramin Bharat Bandh’as well as 6 bank unions who are protesting against the merger of the public sector banks.

The 12 point Charter

The CITU said in a release-“The government failing to tackle the crises-ridden economy is busy in privatizing and selling Public Sector Undertakings (PSUs), natural resources and other national assets which are detrimental to the national interest and national development.” In a press conference, held on 6th January, CITU had claimed that the existing Centre’s policies and labour laws had affected a population of about 80 crores (comprising of both organized and unorganized sectors) and referred the country going through a period of ‘major crisis’. The 12-point charter of demands (as mentioned by CITU) consists of the following:

  • Urgent measures for containing price-rise through universalisation of public distribution system and banning speculative trade in the commodity market 
  • Containing unemployment through concrete measures for employment generation
  • Strict enforcement of all basic labour laws without any exception or exemption and stringent punitive measures for violation of labour laws
  • Universal social security cover for all workers
  • Minimum wages of not less than Rs.18, 000/- per month with provisions of indexation
  • Assured enhanced pension is not less than Rs. 3000/- per month for the entire working population
  • Stoppage of disinvestment in Central/State PSUs and strategic sale
  • Stoppage of contractorization in permanent perennial work and payment of the same wage and benefits for contract workers as regular workers for same and similar work
  • Removal of all ceilings on payment and eligibility of bonus, provident fund; increase the quantum of gratuity
  • Compulsory registration of trade unions within a period of 45 days from the date of submitting the application and immediate ratification of ILO Conventions C 87 and C 98
  • Stop Pro Employer Labor Law Amendments
  • No FDI in Railways, Insurance and Defense

The harms of going on strike

Conducting a strike throughout the country and expecting a large number of government officials is not an easy task; especially when there are orders coming in by the Ministry of Personnel which states that, “Any employee going on strike in any form would face consequences which, besides deduction of wages, may also include appropriate disciplinary action.” Not only this, but the government has also warned CITU of “consequences” if they go on with their declared strike on the 8th.

The retail inflation rose to about 5.54% in November 2019, which is recorded to be a three-year high and is measured in terms of Consumer Price Index (CPI); the reason was higher food prices. Along all such similar lines only, the bandh was declared and is now going to be in action on 8th January 2020.

There was a meeting held by the Labor Minister, Mr. Santosh Gangwar with the trade union leaders last week but he was unable to convince the leaders and call off the strike. One of the major reasons apart from the 12-point charter of demands that has aggravated the cause of the strike is the lack of Indian Labour Conferences (meeting with the Ministry of Labor and Unemployment) since 2015.

What will happen in the strike and will this strike be able to cater to the demands of the different organizations and unions or not is the biggest question of the hour. A more pertinent question is that in a country where investments are made due to cost-cutting strategies of hiring contractual and cheap labour, would the existing government be able to strike a balance between achieving its development goals and valuing its labour force.

- Written by Shruti Singh

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Simplifying the Bharat Bandh on 8th January 2020 Simplifying the Bharat Bandh on 8th January 2020 Reviewed by EMN on January 08, 2020 Rating: 5

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