After Maruti it is time for the textile workers in Punjab to say ‘enough is enough’.

September 26, 2011

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By Sourav Banerjee

Once again the issue of extreme repression of the workers and labor exploitation has surfaced but yet to catch the eye of the mainstream media. This time it is not Maruti, not in Manesar, not even in Haryana. But the plot is the same. 2500 workers are on strike it’s been 5 days now, against the same exploitation of workers by the factory owners, the same inactive and lame labor department with its equally inactive and lame laws. But what differs is that the place is now neighboring Punjab and it is the textile industry instead of the auto one.

Before landing on the ‘strike’ scene straight away, let us look inside the factories where it has happened. More specifically, to find ‘why’ than ‘where’. To begin with, not a single labor law is ever implemented in these power loom units. Other basic rights like 8 hours of work a day, proper wage, ESI, ID card, weekly holidays, proper health care etc. are no more than a distant dream for the workers. Apart from this, forced overtime, havoc workload and constant repression in the workplace has become more than a tradition. The whole theory of accumulating profit can be seen applied here in the most raw and ugly form than Marx had ever thought of. While the owners are relishing with the profit, the workers remains extremely underpaid, as a result it is the workers who are living in a terrible condition and actually bearing the burnt.

So as it should be, here in PUDA Ground, Chandigarh Road, Ludhiana, thousands of textile workers of about 120 factories have gathered for a strike and demonstration demanding for implementation of the labor laws in the factories, increase in wage to cope with the skyrocketing price hike, and legal action against the factory owners and management for their rampant corruption and malpractice in connivance with the administration which has made their lives miserable for years. The strike originally started in 85 factories of Shaktinagar, Gaushala, Kashmir nagar and Moti nagar in Punjab on 21st September, which by now has spread like a wild fire to many new areas like Guru Gobind Singh nagar, Hira nagar, Hargobind nagar, Tibba road. As the demands of this struggle is very much relevant to the laborers working in other factories in the region irrespective to their industry, the strike is expected to be joined by other workers and trade unions from the area in coming days. Comrade Lakhvinder, to whom I spoke last night over phone and also the president of Karkhana Mazdoor Union under the banner of which the movement is gaining momentum, informed me that they are leaving no stone unturned to make the fight widespread, militant and long, until they win. Leaflets are distributed, regular group meetings and open discussions along with revolutionary songs and poetries are going on in the venue to boost up the morale of the struggling workers; as he pointed out that to intensify the struggle it is needed to raise the political consciousness of the workers, lack of which often becomes the reason behind the fall. One of such leaflet says “the present struggle is not only their struggle, but it is the part of struggle of all justice-loving people and working people who are being exploited continuously and along with their families & children are thrown to live in inhuman poverty-ridden conditions generations after generation”. A couple of days back, workers under the banner of Textile Mazdoor Union passed a resolution in solidarity with the workers of Maruti Suzuki plant in Manesar who are struggling against the Maruti-Suzuki management since 29th of august and condemned the illegal lockout of the factory forced upon by the management and demanded for the just demands of workers to be accepted immediately. In another resolution passed by the union, workers of textile mills also condemned the cane-charge on protesting female Multipurpose health workers by the police in Punjab recently and extended full support to their long standing protest. Workers demanded public apology from the government for this adamant high-headed action and suspension of officers who are responsible for this. Up till now no dialogue has taken place between the protesting workers and the management-administration duo as the later is reported to be reluctant in doing so as much as in implementing the labor laws. However, the battle is on and there are many things yet to unfold. But altogether, having an eagle eye view of the situation it is quite inspiring to see the workers of various industrial sectors and geographic locations are joining each other in their struggle to fight their common enemy unitedly. Some may say it is a coincidence but to get it right I will say these are the incidents very much co-related.