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On hunger strike at home, young Uttarkhand labour rights leader charged with obstruction

By Our Representative
A young labour rights activist and student from Uttarakhand, who happens to be secretary of the Lalkuan Unit of Parivartankami Chhatra Sangathan (PACHHAS), has charged by the Uttarakhand police for participating in a day-long hunger strike from inside his home, demanding provisions for workers, students and other people bereft of food and supplies due to the COVID-19 induced lockdown.
Bringing this to light, a civil rights network, Campaign Against State Repression (CASR), which is an apex body of several students’, trade union and human rights organizations, said, the student, Mahesh, has been charged under Sections 188, 269 and 270 of the IPC and Section 51 of the Disaster Management Act 2005 and accused of disobedience to duly promulgated order, of committing acts likely to spread deadly disease and obstruction.
Calling the police action “unwarranted”, CASR in a statement said, it amounts to “attempting to silence a voice raising questions in a peaceful and safe manner, implies that the State today brooks no dissent and cares not an iota for the fundamental right to freedom of expression.”
CASR said, members of PACHHAS have been conducting hunger strike demanding immediate relief to workers across the state alongside a social media campaign to demand “collecting and distributing rations to areas that are among the worst affected by the unexpected and unplanned lockdown.”
According to CASR, a survey suggests that around 90% of workers had not been paid wages by employers nor had they received any rations from the government. “As a result, many workers and students are on the brink of starvation. This is in addition to the universal threat of COVID-19 infection”, it said.
“Consequently”, CASR continued, “While members of the ruling elite and middle classes ensconce themselves at home bolstered by savings, often working from home and maintaining a source of income, the overwhelming majority of the people, workers and peasants face the dual threat of infection and starvation, the latter more imminent than the former.”
Criticising the “judiciary” for allegedly playing its part with its “incredulous statements emanating from its upper most echelons that question the need to provide economic assistance in addition to food, essential supplies and shelter”, the CASR statement said, the judiciary failed to see the “contemptuous and brutal treatment of workers facing starvation, highlighted by instances of police brutality.”
Regretting that, meanwhile, the Central government is planning to pass three “anti-worker and anti-trade union” labour codes as part of the proposed economic stimulus, CASR said, “It is clear that the lockdown is being used to promote its pro-business and anti-worker policies.”
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