NAPM vows to resist the dilution of labour laws and fight for the right to food, dignity, just wages of workers and employer-state accountability

1st May, 2020: National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) salutes the spirit of resilience of millions of workers worldwide and in India, in particular women workers, who even in the midst of the worst pandemic are asserting their right to life, livelihood and dignity, despite numerous odds, state apathy and clout of capitalist forces. We also salute all categories of health care, essential services and relief workers who are risking their lives to keep the nation safe during these trying times. We remember with pride, all workers, trade unionists and people’s organizers who, over centuries, have laid down their lives for the cause of emancipation of the working classes.
We are at a very delicate time in history where on the one hand the climate crisis and the corona crisis has demonstrated the limits of human intervention against nature. On the other hand, globally the working class is up in arms against the capitalist powers who are hell-bent on profiteering by exploitation of the toiling masses and natural resources. In India as well, we are witnessing an unprecedented fascist clamp down on worker’s rights and the right to dissent, coupled with a blatant disregard of the humongous unorganized sector as well as reckless privatization of the public sector.
Decades of struggles which led to 44 legislations regarding minimum wages, fixed hours of work, right to unionization, workers benefits, social security of unorganized sector workers etc. are being diluted through the ‘4 Labour Codes’, which will spell doom for an over-whelming section of the working population of the country. The recent report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on the proposed ‘Code on Industrial Relations Bill’, which held that payments to workers during natural calamities would be ‘unjustifiable’ is yet another deleterious move that must be resisted.
While massive intra-state migration itself points to a lop-sided, neo-liberal model of extractive development which successive governments have perpetuated, the present regime has exposed its crass insensitivity by literally ‘locking down’ the rights of workers across the country and making them struggle even for two secure meals, despite they being the producers who feed, build and run the nation. The plight of lakhs of ‘migrant workers’ across the country, has come to the forefront in all its rawness, during this ‘lockdown’! Thousands of them, who wished to go home had no option but to walk hundreds of miles, amidst fear of police, since they were certainly not a ‘priority class’, unlike well-off Indians abroad or some sections of students.
It is no hidden reality that secure, timely wages and 8 hours work per day is still a distant dream for workers across numerous sectors. However, citing the ‘pandemic’, the attempts of different state governments to push for 12 working hours per day is a huge retrograde step that must be fought tooth and nail. The entire episode of badly planned and horribly executed ‘lockdown’ has also brought forth other significant issues such as the equal right of migrant workers to be at home, to travel back in trains, food security regardless of documentation etc.
The order of the Union Home Ministry allowing for road return and now partial rail return of migrant workers is too little, too late, having subjected countless workers to hunger, denial of and delay in wages and restricted access to travel back. While we welcome today’s announcement for ‘Shramik Special Trains’, we call upon the Government to increase the number of these trains across various routes / states and also ensure that the burden of payment of train ticket is not on the already impoverished worker but is owned up by the contractor and the State, in terms of the provisions of the Inter-State Migrant Workers Act, 1967.
Since physical solidarity is limited amidst lockdown, NAPM organized a National E-Seminar today with the theme “Workers’ Rights: Dignity, Justice and Pro-People Development’. A range of issues pertaining to agriculture workers, artisans, NREGA, construction and other workers came up in the seminar, in which activists Medha Patkar, Richa Singh, P. Chennaiah, Prasanna Heggodu, Dr. Sunilam, Kamayani Swami, Ashish Ranjan and almost 250 others saathis from different states and sangathans participated. Some of the key demands are listed below. The key takeaway was that real justice to the working class can be possible only we continue to radically revisit our development paradigm and make it ecologically sustainable, with a bottom-up approach. We hope to take up the issues raised in the Seminar today in an organized way, in the days to come.
We demand that the Government of India must immediately:
• ROLL BACK the attempts to dilute the labour laws through the labour codes.
• CO-ORDINATE with state governments to ensure free, safe and quick return of all migrant workers, including by rail and establish toll-free helplines.
• UNIVERSALIZE the Public Distribution system. Release significant food stocks from FCI and provide rations and subsistence allowance to all workers and their families, regardless of possession of ration cards.
• ENSURE full payment to workers in all sectors for the entire period of lockdown as per the Advisory of the Union Labour Ministry.
• PROVIDE an exemplary compensation of at least Rs. 50 /- lakh to families of all health-care workers who have died in the course of duty as well as families of other 310 + workers / persons who have died during the period of lockdown.
• EXTEND an input subsidy of at least Rs. 25,000/- to all adivasi farmers, dalit farmers, small and marginal farmers / share coopers. Arrangements must be made to keep seeds and manures readily available at the level of every panchayat by May end, as the agricultural season starts from June. (especially as lockdown has further been extended by two weeks today)
• PAY at least Rs. 6,000/- as immediate interim relief and ensure full payment thereafter, considering all NREGA job card holders as ‘on-work’, for the full period of lockdown.
• PAY at least Rs. 5,000/- to all Building and Other Construction Workers from the Cess amount, regardless of registration.
• INCREASE the national health budget from the present 2.6% to 15% and allocate the same to strengthen/ improve community and public health care infrastructure.
• INCREASE Maternity benefits for the informal workers from 1,500/- to Rs. 10,000/- per month for 3 to 4 months.
• EXTEND ESI benefits to all the informal workers in the country.
• ENSURE fair and dignified living wages at par with the 7th Pay Commission recommendations (Rs. 22,500/- per month, i.e. Rs. 750/- per day).
• REGISTER all workers as per the Unorganized Sector Workers Act, 2008 and bring them under the social security net.

From workers asserting their rights across the industrial belts and factories, construction sites, agriculture, sea coasts and inlands, in forests, mines, sanitation sector, health care, domestic and care work, street vendors and a whole array of production and service sectors, the struggle for security, dignity and equality is far from achieved. Our movements must continue until we realize all the above demands as well as the historic demand of ‘eight hours of work with just pay and social security, eight hours of sleep and eight hours to do what we will,’ for each and every worker in every sector.
In times of divisiveness, we must re-assert the unity of the working class, challenging the hegemony of all forms of religion, caste, culture, gender or language. While lockdowns are probably unavoidable under the conditions of pandemic, we must be vigilant to resist any attempt to use the moment to push for a totalitarian political culture, damaging democratic participation.
Medha Patkar, Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) and National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM); Dr. Sunilam, Adv. Aradhna Bhargava, Kisan Sangharsh Samiti; Rajkumar Sinha, Chutka Parmaanu Virodhi Sangharsh Samiti, NAPM, Madhya Pradesh;
Aruna Roy, Nikhil Dey, Shankar Singh, Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS), National Campaign for People’s Right to Information; Kavita Srivastava, People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL); Kailash Meena NAPM Rajasthan;
Prafulla Samantara, Lok Shakti Abhiyan; Lingraj Azad, Samajwadi Jan Parishad & Niyamgiri Suraksha Samiti, Manorama, Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti; Lingaraj Pradhan, Satya banchor, Anant, Kalyan Anand, Arun Jena, Trilochan Punji, Lakshimipriya Mohanty and Balakrishna Sand, Manas Patnaik, NAPM Odisha;
Sandeep Pandey, SP(I); Richa Singh, Rambeti, Sangatin Kisaan Mazdoor Sangathan; Rajeev Yadav, Rihai Manch; Suresh Rathaur, Mahendra, MNREGA Mazdoor Union; Arundhati Dhuru, Manesh Gupta, Arvind Murti, Satish Singh, Jagriti Rahi, Altamas Ansari, Zainab Khatun, Nakul Singh Sawney, Mashiuddin, NAPM, Uttar Pradesh;
P. Chennaiah, Andhra Pradesh Vyavasaya Vruthidarula Union-APVVU, Ramakrishnam Raju, United Forum for RTI and NAPM, Chakri (Samalochana), Balu Gadi, Bapji Juvvala, NAPM Andhra Pradesh;
Jeevan Kumar & Syed Bilal (Human Rights Forum), P. Shankar (Dalit Bahujan Front), Vissa Kiran Kumar & Kondal (Rythu Swarajya Vedika), Ravi Kanneganti (Rythu JAC), Ashalatha (MAKAAM), Krishna (Telangana Vidyavantula Vedika-TVV), M. Venkatayya (Telangana Vyavasaya Vruttidarula Union-TVVU), Meera Sanghamitra, Rajesh Serupally, NAPM Telangana;
Sister Celia, Domestic Workers Union; Maj Gen (Retd) S.G.Vombatkere, NAPM, Nawaz, Dwiji, Nalini, NAPM Karnataka
Gabriele Dietrich, Penn Urimay Iyakkam, Madurai; Geetha Ramakrishnan, Unorganised Sector Workers Federation; Suthanthiran, Suthanthiran, Lenin & Arul Doss, NAPM Tamilnadu;
Vilayodi Venugopal, CR Neelakandan, Prof. Kusumam Joseph, Sharath Cheloor, Vijayaraghavan Cheliya, Majeendran, Magline, NAPM, Kerala;
Dayamani Barla, Aadivasi-Moolnivasi Astivtva Raksha Samiti; Basant Hetamsaria, Aloka Kujur, Dr. Leo A. Singh, Afzal Anish, Sushma Biruli, Durga Nayak, Jipal Murmu, Priti Ranjan Dash, Ashok Verma, NAPM Jharkhand;
Anand Mazgaonkar, Swati Desai, Krishnakant, Parth, Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti; Nita Mahadev, Mudita, Lok Samiti; Dev Desai, Mujahid Nafees, Ramesh Tadvi, Aziz Minat and Bharat Jambucha, NAPM Gujarat;
Vimal Bhai,Matu Jan sangathan; Jabar Singh, Uma, NAPM, Uttarakhand;
Gautam Bandopadhyay, Nadi Ghati Morcha; Kaladas Dahariya, RELAA, NAPM Chhattisgarh;
Samar Bagchi, Amitava Mitra, Binayak Sen, Sujato Bhadro, Pradip Chatterjee, Pasarul Alam, Amitava Mitra, Tapas Das, Tahomina Mandal, Pabitra Mandal, Kazi Md. Sherif, Biswajit Basak, Ayesha Khatun, Rupak Mukherjee, Milan Das, Asit Roy, Mita Bhatta, Yasin, Matiur Rahman, Baiwajit Basa, NAPM West Bengal;
Suniti SR, Sanjay M G, Suhas Kolhekar, Prasad Bagwe, Mukta Srivastava, Yuvraj Gatkal, Geetanjali Chavan, Bilal Khan, Jameela, Ghar Bachao Ghar Banao Andolan; Chetan Salve, Narmada Bachao Andolan, NAPM Maharashtra;
Faisal Khan, Khudai Khidmatgar, J S Walia, NAPM Haryana;
Guruwant Singh, NAPM Punjab;
Kamayani Swami, Ashish Ranjan, Jan Jagran Shakti Sangathan; Mahendra Yadav, Kosi Navnirman Manch; Sister Dorothy, Aashray Abhiyan, NAPM Bihar;
Rajendra Ravi, NAPM; Bhupender Singh Rawat, Jan Sangharsh Vahini; Anjali Bharadwaj and Amrita Johri, Satark Nagrik Sangathan; Sanjeev Kumar, Dalit Adivasi Shakti Adhikar Manch; Anita Kapoor, Delhi Shahri Mahila Kaamgaar Union; Sunita Rani, National Domestic Workers Union; Nanhu Prasad, National Cyclist Union; Madhuresh Kumar, Priya Pillai, Aryaman Jain, Divyansh Khurana, Evita Das; Anil TV, Delhi Solidarity Group.
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