04 June 2020

From Kashmir to Punjab and Gujarat, reports of workers not being paid their dues are emerging.

After tension arose in the industrial area of Malerkotla, Punjab, town late last night as some migrants working at Arihant Spinning Mill held a protest to demand full wages for the lockdown period outside the premises and allegedly threw stones at the civil and police officers, over 300 were booked on 12th May.

Workers said they got injured in police lathicharge, including some women. Over 300 workers protested outside the mill on 11th May night when they protested that they were not paid full wages, they were kept inside the unit during the entire lockdown period. They weren’t allowed to move out of the unit and were even forced to buy essential commodities from the factory’s canteen at high rates.

One of them said, “If someone would fall sick, they used to give medicine without any medical examination. Many of us have been given less salary. We have not been given any reason for deducting our salary.”

On 12th May morning, though, a meeting was arranged between the workers and government official no settlement was there, and then the police attacked the workers to terrorize them.


Similar Anguish Across the Country 

On May 9, a protest by Chenab Textile Mills (CTM) workers turned violent in Jammu and Kashmir's Kathua district. A large number of people were protesting at the site, demanding payment of their full salaries, NDTV reported. The workers protesting claimed that the police resorted to lathi-charge, hitting everyone including children following which the people here had to pelt stones. Last month, after a paper mill allegedly refused to remit wages to several daily wagers from various parts of the union territory and other states, the disgruntled employees staged a protest outside the mill in Kathua district, the Hindustan Times reported. The daily wagers alleged that the mill management threw them out of the premises and refused to pay them their pending wages of two to three months.

In Gujarat, around 400 workers, most of them migrants, gathered outside the Indian Oil Corporation Limited (IOCL) refinery in Vadodara, on May 12, to protest a delay in their wages. The workers were employed by Bridge and Roof (B and R), a semi-government firm for the construction of a new unit at Koyali for the IOCL.

The plight of workers all over the country is deteriorating. At first, they were dependent on the states and had to fend for money and food from civil society and human rights organizations and find a way to reach the safety of their homes in villages. They walked on foot and some died during the journey. When trains and buses were started to ferry them home, they themselves had to manage the sky high ticket fare. And now, when the states realized their need, they were forced into staying back so that the powerful industry owners could earn profits off their labour. Stories of the delays in their wages and non-payment of dues just go to show the level of apathy that still prevails in the society towards those who shoulder our economy. The migrant workers are treated like bonded labour everywhere. n


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Kabeer Katlat

The Communist movement in India has a history of almost a century after the salvos of October Revolution in Russia brought Marxism-Leninism to the people of India who were engaged in the national liberation struggle against the British colonialists. It is a complex and chequered history.