ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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For a Minimum Living Wage

Workers’ March to Parliament

On 12 December, nearly a lakh of workers predominantly from the unorganised sector marched to Parliament to demand a minimum living wage, social security measures and regularisation of work. The call had been given by trade unions across the political spectrum and the participants came from all parts of the country. However, mainstream and popular media remained indifferent and ignored the rally, as always.

Nearly one lakh workers marched from the Ramlila Maidan to Parliament on 12 December in New Delhi. The rally was the culmination of a year-long campaign by a number of trade unions and included a 48-hour national strike in February 2013. The workers were demanding higher minimum wages, social security, and implementation of labour laws among a charter of 10 demands.1 The trade unions represented included the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS-affiliated to the Sangh parivar), the Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC – the labour arm of the Congress Party), the All-India Trade Union Congress (AITUC associated with the Communist Party of India (CPI)), the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)), and the Hindustan Mazdoor Sangh (HMS) along with a number of others associated with other left and regional parties. The mobilisation was dominated by the leftist unions which have periodically called such rallies over the years to protest against the exploitation of the working population resulting from the centre’s economic reforms.

The first set of demands was put forward by the trade unions jointly in September 2009. In the three years between then and September 2011, two general strikes were called and a total set of 10 demands were again presented to the government. All these actions however met with complete indifference from the centre. The unions then called a 48-hour general strike from 20 to 21 February 2013. This time around there was an immediate reaction and the union representatives were invited for talks a week before the scheduled strike. A three-member ministerial committee to be headed by Defence Minister A K Antony was also set up.

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