India. On the second day of nationwide lockdown – 24th March – there was a clash with the police of workers in Vadod area of Surat, in which more than one thousand – 1,000 – workers were seemingly involved. Last night, 10th April, in Surat’s Laksana area, groups of workers again took to the streets, attacked and burned vehicles, and threw stones at the police when they came to apprehend them. Panic in the media. TV news anchors otherwise used to twist narratives and lie through their teeth could not contain the truth – workers are revolting. The next morning the government deployed Rapid Action Force in the region, police arrested around 60-70 people.
Originally published by Kaam se chutti (Time off Work). Written by a worker from Dehli.
The media is trying to spin this predicament in some way, but has failed – the demands of the workers are not being met, the workers are protesting, but see how they protest! Pelting stones, setting fire, social distancing broken! Lockdowns are breaking! The media are accusing the workers of not understanding the intensity of the epidemic, that they should stay in the room and stay calm after eating the food given by NGOs and civil society. There is no point in these allegations. In response, the workers practice social solidarity, unable to practice physical distancing.
Workers are saying – physical distance has gone to the dogs anyway. They live in closely adjoining rooms, use shared kitchens-bathrooms-taps, and stand in long lines to eat. Now who are these people who are teaching them physical distancing lessons? The intention of those who give food is fine, but the food is tasteless. The owners of the companies are refusing to pay the wages for the time on and off work. Police has stopped the movement of people. Millions of laborers from Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha work in the textile, diamond, and construction businesses of Surat.
The steps of the workers show that the social distance and the lockdown scheme that the governments have foisted is useless for the working class. They say that for the people to not die of disease, the governments and the rich have left them in the grip of hunger and desperation. Governments have banned the movement of people. Actually there is another truth hidden behind it which the media and experts are afraid to say.
The diamond trade has been on the wane for a long time. This is not a new thing. In times of global recession, the demand for diamonds and gems has fallen since a while. The diamond industry and workers engaged in it have been experiencing this for a long time. No wage-hikes, no bonuses, or low bonuses – these have been the experiences of the last few years. The slope of the diamond industry has been getting steeper for some years. At the same time, the demand for ready-made garmets has also decreased due to the global recession. This has also reduced demand for textile and thread. Companies are finding it difficult to pay salaries to workers, and so have failed the government’s orders to them to pay the workers even for the duration of the lockdown. The same is the case with the construction business, which has been going through a massive recession for at least the last 6-7 years. Companies are unable to run. Cannot repay the loan installments. Banks are going bankrupt.
In this case, the coronavirus epidemic has become a great excuse for governments and companies to cover up their social decline.
• Stop the workers from meeting, gathering together.
• Create fear in the workers.
• Make workers sit at home and away from factories.
• Avoidance of companies and institutions if they do not fulfill their responsibilities.
In the time of recession, workers have already understood how the governments and the wealthier sections are using the pandemic as an excuse to hide their own weaknesses. On the one hand governments-companies-experts-rich people are denying sociality to the mass of society, whereas on the other hand, the workers are practicing basic human sociability in defying the curfew. You cannot merely sit out the pandemic at home; better conditions for care and treatment need to be created. The workers are taking big steps to push towards such favorable conditions.
1st April, 2020
Nearly 19,000 workers who operate around 4,700 ambulances in Uttar Pradesh have been gone on strike claiming that they haven’t been paid salaries for the past 2 months, nor have they been given protective gear while at work. They struck work for two days. The UP government officials spoke with the association head and assured them that they would be given their dues as well as protective gear soon. The ambulance services have since restarted. The official also observed that it is illegal to strike in emergency situations like this.
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