RSS affiliate Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS) has announced a nationwide protest against the 'anti-worker' policies of prime minister Narendra Modi-led government. Protests have been planned across district headquarters throughout the country along with Jantar Mantar in New Delhi on January 3.
Announcing the decision, Virjesh Upadhyay, general secretary, BMS strongly opposed the contractualisation and casualisation of jobs. He demanded that all contract, fixed-term, casual, daily-wage and temporary workers should be regularised/ absorbed in permanent employment.
The labour union also calls for brakes on the government's disinvestment programme including strategic sale, corporatisation and privatisation of public sector undertakings. "Foreign Direct Investment and corporatisation of defence sector is a matter of national security. Corporatisation of Railways, which is an essential service and lifeline of Indian cities, must be stopped," he said.
BMS appreciated the government's efforts to codify existing labour laws into four codes. However, the organisation sought further fine-tuning of a number of provisions in the codes that are effectively anti-labour and hurt the general interest of workers. Stating that the anti-labour provisions in the labour codes must be removed, the organisation blamed the bureaucratic set-up of the country for being in alleged 'nexus with industries/industrialists' to downgrade the bargaining power and other rights of workers.
"Most of the formal jobs in the country have been contractualised or made fixed term jobs. Job security, as it had always been envisaged, has been compromised and workers always run the risk of being thrown out/replaced. It is necessary to create a sense of belongingness with industry among workers. This is bound to result in increased productivity," Upadhyay states.
He wanted all casual workers associated with Aanganwadi, Aasha, Public Distribution System, Midday Meal, and National Health Mission to be conferred the title of government servants as they work for the schemes of the government. "These people work just as hard as other government employees and hence deserve to be treated equally as other employees," he said.
The organisation also called for proper implementation of the existing labour laws, especially the one that prescribes minimum wages for workers. "Laws have existed for a long time and the intent of policymakers has been clear but the laws have not been able to change the practices on ground due to lose enforcement. A number of accidents at the workplace could have been prevented with proper implementation of existing laws. It is the non-implementation of the laws that often drives the trade unions to confrontations," BMS pointed out.
BMS further demanded to include a higher threshold for income tax (from Rs 5 lakh now to Rs 8 lakh), a universal social security code that takes care of basic amenities such as nutrition, residence, medical facilities and education and functional welfare boards in all sectors including handloom, agriculture, construction and fishery. "Workers in the informal sector, which comprise almost 93 percent of India's total workforce are also the most vulnerable and must be protected by the law," they said.
BMS has also criticised the government's digital drive in welfare schemes. "Various problems such as illiteracy or digital illiteracy, fees to be paid for filling forms from different centres, inadequate interface for users and internet connection problems have made the life of beneficiaries of the schemes tough. We demand that manual methods should be reinstated and digitisation should be achieved gradually," Upadhyay said.