KARNATAKA: WOKERS' STRUGGLE FOR MINIMUM WAGE, JOB SECURITY AND JUSTICE CONTINUES

04 July 2019

Under the leadership of Trade Union Centre of India (TUCI) workers engaged in various sectors have been struggling for the last one and half years for minimum wages and against the contract labour system which is a neo liberal policy imposed by the state and central governments.

The Modi-2 government wants changes in labor law so that corporate capitalists can earn super profits and so it also wants to remove all democratic and trade union rights of the working class. The Kumaraswamy government in Karnataka has not implemented the existing labour laws in various sectors, especially government sector. In this way they are showing actual support to the Modi government by attacking the working class and peasantry.

In this critical situation workers in the power sector in north Karnataka, irrigation sector and mining sector are continuously fighting for their wages, bread and livelihood. The state government is trying to suppress their struggles through various methods.

Tungabhadra irrigation workers who are in charge of supply and maintenance of water to 906000 acres command area of Raichur, Koppal and Bellary districts have not been paid their salary for 14 months. Instead, the authority is threatening their job security through imposing contract labor system!

In the state-run Hutti Gold Mines, 4054 workers produce10kg gold everyday and they reached 99%production target fixed by the management but their wage revision settlement is still pending. Even after successful negotiation, the government is not approving their fine wage agreement. Workers have been fighting for this since the last 18 months.

Raichur is now a major power hub in Karnataka. The Raichur Thermal Power Station was established in 1985. It produced 1750megawatts per day. It employed more than 1600 contract labours in the hard work of coal and ash handling but they were not paid living wages. The National Power Grid Station was established in 2014 in city-attached area and its transmission capacity is 760MW. Here 22 workers were terminated for demanding minimum wages and the conciliation is still pending.

The Yeramaras Thermal Power Station (YTPS) was established by the state government in 2016 without heeding the opposition of the people of Raichur to the project. It is said to be the only super critical thermal power plant in India with 13250 crores investment by state and central governments. More than 500 workers including those who had lost land to the project were terminated illegally 6 months ago and workers organised under TUCI have built up a struggle. The workers say: “We have lost our land and livelihood to YTPS, so how can YTPS authority terminate us from our jobs now? We want reemployment and wages.” They carried on a hunger strike for 23 days but still the authority did not respond.

In the above context, under the leadership of TUCI, the Tungabhadra, Hutti gold mines, RTPS and YTPS workers challenged Karnataka Chief Minister Kumaraswamy’s village-stay programme. When this was announced, the Raichur district administraton approached the TUCI leadership and promised a meeting between the CM and the TUCI leadership at Yeramaras Guesthouse on June 26.

But the meeting was never held. The Chief Minister did not even bother to listen to the problems of the workers. In protest, around a 1000 workers came out to the main road blocking it. Actually the workers had encircled the guesthouse and the road. The CM’s special bus was not allowed to leave for at least 30 minutes. Then the CM came out and shouted that the workers voted for Modi and came to him when they were in trouble! The workers responded by sloganeering against the Modi government. The CM then shouted for the police but the police were too paralysed to take action because of the workers’ strength and militancy.

Later, many people’s organisations and leaders of political parties condemned the chief minister’s attitude towards the struggling workers. TUCI Karnataka state president and union leader comrade R. Manasayya said "we are fighting at Yaramaras Thermal Power Station! The communists, not BJP. We are fighting for job security for five hundred workers who have thrown out of work. We are fighting for payment of months of salary due to Tungabhadra workers also."

The demonstration of June 26 once again exposed the attitude of the ruling classes to the burning issues of the working class. The TUCI leadership seriously condemns the irresponsible state government. It has called for an indefinite dharna by the Tungabhadra workers at Freedom Park, Bengaluru, since July 3, demanding their 14 months’ due wages and job security. TUCI demands that the matter be raised in the monsoon session of the Assembly which will start on July 12. 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.