Skip to main content

Pressure tactics end South Gujarat's 1.5 lakh sugarcane workers' strike for more wages

Sugarcane workers' protest in Bardoli
By Jayesh Gamit, Denis Macwan* 
On the first day of the strike of sugarcane harvesting workers of South Gujarat, February 28, in which tribal migrant workers under the banner of Majur Adhikar Manch (MAM) participated, two teams of the trade union visited labour camps in and around Bardoli to assess the impact. The teams found that around 30 per cent workers went on strike and did not work.
The factory management deployed full strength of its recruitment staff to persuade workers to continue working. Recalcitrant workers were asked to pack up and go home without settlement of their accounts. Supervisors threatened workers, who had stopped work, that they would not be allotted farms for cutting sugarcane.
Nearly one and a half lakh sugarcane workers had agitated for higher wages, improved working and living conditions, and social security for last five years. Hence, on the second day, February 29, a general meeting and rally was proposed in front of the Bardoli Sugar Factory. For this, approval was sought and granted by the office of executive sub-magistrate, Bardoli, on February 27.
It is noteworthy that in spite of the enormity of pressure by the factory management, about 30 per cent of the harvesters had stopped work on the first day of the strike. There was a high possibility that the strike would spread furiously in the area after the general meeting and a rally of the protesting workers to the sub-magistrate’s office in Bardoli.
Fearing this, on the evening of February 28, the block administration cancelled its permission of organizing a public meeting due to the enormous pressure brought on by the sugar factory management and their vast network of political associates.
This became evident through the string of reasons that the administration presented to the members of MAM, Surat, which appeared baseless. The office of the magistrate conveyed that ground approved as the venue for the meeting was the space where the factory vehicles were parked. 
The said space is about 50,000 square feet of vacant space located in front of the factory. Out of this, the union had sought permission for meeting for 200 people only, for which 1000 square feet would be more than enough.
The pertinent question is, if the harvesters working for the factory do not demonstrate in front of the sugar factory for their demands, where else will they go? This step of the administration is a direct violation of the human and labour rights of the workers as per our Constitution. The union appealed against this move to the sub-division magistrate.
There was possibility that the strike would spread furiously in the area after the general meeting and a rally of the protesting workers to the sub-magistrate’s office in Bardoli
This is not the first incident of its kind. Earlier, on February 14, a closed-door meeting organized by MAM with the harvesters in the hall of the Bardoli Medical Association was unceremoniously interrupted by the police and the management of the sugar factory. The management of the Bardoli Medical Association was pressurised to cancel the booking made for the meeting after the attempts by the police to halt the meeting did not work.
It is the constitutional right of the workers to organize and fight for their rights. The factory management and the administration should know that if this right is violated, the anger of the workers will manifest in other ways, as was witnessed in Chalthan Factory in 2016, as per the information received by the union.
The factory management worked day and night to disrupt the strike. Representatives of the factory were using threats such as immediate dismissal and non-payment of wages to deter harvesters from stopping their work. Contractors were also being constantly threatened with non-clearance of accounts and that they would no longer be given work. Furthermore, the management went to the extent of threatening the workers with mechanization which would render the harvesters unemployed.
The extent of pressure being exercised by various powerful stakeholders was experienced by the union team when they were besieged by the sugarcane farm owners in Timbarawa village during the press coverage on February 28 while the strike was going on. The union team was threatened with dire consequences if they did not leave the area.
Given this atmosphere of terror and the excessive pressure by the administration, the union decided to withdraw its call for strike to ensure the safety of the harvesters. It submitted a memorandum on the demands of the workers to the Chief Minister through the province officer.
The struggle for human and labour rights will continue. The union will soon file a suit in the appropriate court against factory management for not following labour laws; while the efforts will continue to organize the harvesters.
---
*Secretaries, Majur Adhikar Manch, Dang and Surat, respectively

Comments

TRENDING

Mallika Sarabhai releases speech she was 'not allowed' to give at NID Convocation on Feb 7

Counterview Desk
The National Institute of Design (NID) in Ahmedabad, a Ministry of Commerce and Industry body, landed itself in controversy following its decision to put off its 40th convocation ceremony, where noted danseuse Mallika Sarabhai was invited as chief guest. The ceremony was scheduled to be held on February 7.

Modi, Shah 'forget': Gandhi’s first Satyagraha was against citizenship law of South Africa

By Nachiketa Desai*
Hindu fanatic Nathuram Godse assassinated Mahatma Gandhi once on January 30, 1948 but his followers raising the war cry of ‘Jai Sriram’ are killing the Mahatma every day. In his home state of Gujarat, Gandhiji was killed a thousand times in 2002 when over 2,000 Muslims were butchered, their women raped, homes and shops plundered and set on fire and even unborn babies ripped out of the wombs of their mothers.

Across the board, among Muslims, Hindus, there's enormous fury at Delhi Police: Report

Counterview Desk
A quick report, prepared by Delhi's concerned citizens, "Let Us Heal Our Dilli", based on one-day visit (February 27) to several areas and mohallas of North East Delhi affected by the riots that gripped the country's capital -- Bhajanpura, Chand Bagh, Gokulpuri, Chaman Park, Shiv Vihar, Main Mustafabad (including Bhagirathi Vihar and Brijpuri) -- has said everywhere there is "zero trust" towards that the police.

As corona virus 'travels' to rural areas, NGO begins training tribals, marginalised women

By Souparno Chatterjee*
The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared corona virus a pandemic. Originating from Wuhan in China, it has traversed the entire globe, almost, and claimed more than 16,000 lives already. That’s largely the urban population. In India, despite all the preparedness and war-like promptness to safeguard against the pandemic, several lives have been lost , and hundreds of individuals have tested positive.

Rani Laxmi Bai, Tatya Tope 'martyred' by East India Company, Scindia's forefathers

By Our Representative
In an email alert to Counterview, well-known political scientist Shamsul Islam has said that was “shameful for any political party in democratic India to keep children of Sindhias in their flock” given their role during the First War of Indian Independence (1857). In a direct commentary on Madhya Pradesh Congress leader Jyotiraditya Scindia moving over to BJP, Prof Islam has quote from a British gazetteer to prove his point.

Big 'danger' of NPR: A babu can tag anyone as doubtful citizen, Jharkhand meet told

' By Our Representative
People in large numbers from across Jharkhand gathered at the Raj Bhawan in Ranchi to demand that the Hemant Soren government reject National Population Register (NPR) and stop all NPR-related activities. The people’s organisations which participated in the dharna under the banner of the Jharkhand Janadhikar Mahasabha (JMM) resolved to intensify their struggle, insisting, NPR is not a Hindu-Muslim issue but is essentially anti-poor.

COVID-19: Dalit rights bodies regret, no relief plan yet for SCs, STs, marginalized

By Our Representative
In a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the National Dalit Watch-National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights, endorsed* by several other Dalit rights organizations, have insisted, the Government of India should particular care of the scheduled castes and tribes, trans folks, persons with disabilities and the women and children from these communities, while fighting against COVID-19 pandemic.

Gujarat govt plan to 'banish' Gandhian activist anti-democratic, unconstitutional

By Rohit Prajapati*
The current Central and Gujarat governments, and their bureaucracy, have been and are still unable to answer and address the concerns raised, with facts, figures, and constitutional provisions, regarding the terror of tourism in the name of the Statue of Unity and tourism projects surrounding it.

Haridwar Swamis lead Khudai Khidmatgar peace march in Delhi 'riot affected' areas

By Our Representative
A Khudai Kidmatgar team, which visited the riot-affected regions along with Swami Shivanand Saraswati and Swami Punyanand, has insisted that India's true heritage is the lesson of ‘vasudhaiv kutumbakam', and it is the responsibility of all to carry froward this legacy. Originally founded by Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan in 1930, also known as Frontier Gandhi, Khudai Khidmatgar is claimed to have been revived by young Gandhian activist Faisal Khan in 2011.