Nearly five thousand construction workers of Punjab marched through the streets of Jalandhar on 18th September, 2017 to submit their charter of demands to the Chief Minister of Punjab through the Dist. Commissioner Jalandhar. Earlier the workers held a big public meeting on the grounds of Deshbhagat Yadgar Hall in Jalandhar where construction workers drawn from various districts of Punjab gathered under the banner of Mistri Mazdoor Union (IFTU) to highlight their issues.
The workers were addressed by the Central leaders of IFTU, President Com. Aparna and General Secretary Com. B. Pradeep, Punjab state leaders of IFTU, President Com. Kulvinder Singh and General Secretary Com. Raj Singh (Convenor All India Coordination Committee of Construction Workers – IFTU) who also conducted the proceedings. Com. K. Suryam (Co-convenor, All India Coordination Committee of Construction Workers) from Telengana and Dinesh Parmar who is organizing construction workers in Gujarat also addressed the meeting. Leaders of IFTU affiliated construction workers’ unions of Andhra Pradesh (Com. U. Venkateshwarulu), Bihar (Com. Suresh Kanojia, NCM of IFTU), Delhi (Com. Animesh Das, President of Delhi IFTU) were among the speakers.
Speakers highlighted that despite the huge amount of over Rs. 7000 crores lying with various state governments as the 2% construction cess, hardly 15% has been spent on construction workers. No state government ensures that safety kit is mandatory at construction sites. All India Coordination Committee’s demand charter also highlights that construction workers should be entitled to ESI, PF with contributions being paid by the state boards. All construction workers should receive pension at the rate of not less than Rs. 3000 per month and in proportion to the minimum wages in the state. Compensation for death should be Rs. 10 lakhs and should be uniform throughout the country. At present some state boards pay Rs. 1 lakh, others anything upto Rs. 4 lakhs. Registration of construction workers should be the responsibility of the state govts, and the process should be easy. Unions should be represented at the boards at all levels. Speakers also flayed the Govts. both at the Centre and in the states for non-implementation of the BOC Act, 1996. In fact in Punjab, where strong construction workers’ movement has ensured implementation of several entitlements, the state Govt. has closed 3 lakh of the 6 lakh workers’ registration for no reason.
Speakers also pointed to the challenge before the working class to confront the communal conspiracies of the RSS-BJP Central Govt. which is sponsoring anti-Muslim violence and atrocities against Dalits, and dividing the working class. The working class must also beat back the attacks on labour laws, the speakers stressed.
At the end of the meeting, the workers marched to the DC office where they forced his representative to come and receive the memorandum. (The DC was in the Court.)
This rally and gathering was held despite the fact that Punjab had seen days of curfew and disturbance just weeks earlier due the violence post conviction of Dera Sachcha Sauda chief, Gurmit Singh. Thousands of workers from South Punjab as still in jail. Punjab is also seeing a strong peasant movement for the demands of peasantry.