Delhi – WUCI Statement on denial of paid leave for workers on poll day

December 5, 2013

Workers Unity Center of India
(Mazdoor Ekta Kendra)

Contact: 9313730069

Press Statement on the denial of paid leave to lakhs of workers in Delhi & NCR today, despite the Chief Electoral Officer’s notifications for a paid holiday on the poll day of the Delhi Legislative Assembly Election 2013.

Date: 04.12.2013

Lakhs of workers held captive in industrial establishments & forced to work despite declaration of a paid holiday by the Chief Electoral Officer, Delhi.

Workers demand re-poll in affected areas.

Today, on the day of the Delhi Legislative Assembly election 2013, the Office of the Chief Electoral Officer, Delhi had notified a paid holiday across “any business, trade, industrial undertaking or any other establishment” for all voters in Delhi, including those who “are working outside Delhi in NCR Region”. This was declared by the Office of the Chief Electoral Officer in a Public Notice issued and published across daily newspapers on the eve of poll day. However despite such notifications, lakhs of workers across Delhi and the NCR were compelled to work across thousands of small and medium-sized industrial, business establishments, malls, etc. Even in many government-funded institutions such as universities, fourth class employees like mess workers and safai karamcharis and contractual staff were denied a holiday. They were held captive by their employers who forced them to report to work by threatening to fire them or cut their pay. The workers were subsequently locked into the manufacturing unit’s premises so that they had to work till evening. This naturally prevented lakhs of workers across the city from casting their vote.

In certain localities like Rama Road, Anand Parbat, etc. workers and their families even dialed the police helpline number 100, but to no avail. The incidents show the compromised nature of polling in the city, especially the fact that the Office of the Chief Electoral Officer acts restricts itself merely to circulating notifications but not to implement them. Considering the rampant incidents of forceful extraction of work on poll day, a memorandum has been submitted at the Office of the Chief Electoral Officer/the returning office/returning officer in which a re-polling was demanded from affected areas.

The larger issue which emerges from this blatant flouting of election rules as prescribed in Section 135B of the Representation of People Act 1951 is that despite tall claims of the bureaucracy and ruling class, democracy is a distant dream for this country. Elections are held with much fanfare in our country and are projected as harbingers of much needed change, ‘progress’, ‘development’ and ‘good governance’. Even with growing cynicism and despair within a large portion of the electorate, voters are every year wooed into believing that they vote in change. Concealed in this entire process are two important facts. First, that a large section of our society, comprising of workers, is prevented from voting due to the sheer economic and political clout enjoyed by capitalists. Second, that despite casting the vote, Indian voters do not actually experience the fulfillment of their democratic rights, especially so because the existing sham of democratic functioning conceals the fact that while voters elect an individual representative into power they do not achieve the right to vote on policies and decisions taken by Legislative Assemblies and the Parliament. Elections of individual representatives cannot undo the inherent undemocratic structure of the parliamentary system whereby PM/CM constituted cabinets dominate policy decisions.

In this light, WUCI and working-class organizations across the board see elections and the appended political structure as representative of nothing but furthering of the iron-fisted rule of capital. In the interest of the burgeoning private sector or private capital, economic policies are being transformed to pave the way for greater disinvestment; privatization; relaxation of pro-labour measure in labour laws; bailing out of defaulting capitalist firms; forceful acquisition of natural resources and their sale at throwaway prices to individual capitalists; etc. Denying workers, who constitute the majority of the working population, their basic democratic rights is nothing but an effort to further the aforementioned process, and thus, to maintain the power of the ruling elite. In other words, democracy in our country is being held captive by private capital, which simply seeks to maintain the semblance of democracy but not true democracy that empowers the people to affect state policy.

Alok Kumar
On behalf of WUCI