Skip to main content

Sugarcane workers' 8-yr struggle 'bears fruit', Gujarat govt doubles minimum wages

By Jayesh Gamit* 

The Gujarat government has issued a notification hiking minimum wages for sugarcane harvesting workers from Rs 238 per tonne to Rs 476 per tonne. The notification came after a long eight-year struggle of workers led by their Union Majoor Adhikar Manch. 
The hiked wages will benefit almost three lakh tribal workers – almost all of them seasonal migrants from districts of Tapi and Dang in Gujarat, Nandurbar and Dhule in Maharashtra, and Badwani in MP. It is expected that the hike will lead to additional wages of Rs. 357 crores per year.
The sugarcane harvesting sector is riddled with exploitation -- low wages, irregular and non-payment of wages, long working hours, lack of occupational safety and health, exploitative recruiting practices that amount to bondage, and poor working and living cconditions The Majur Adhikar Manch, a trade union of informal workers, has been working with the sugarcane harvesting workers in Gujarat since 2015.
When the union started working with the sugarcane harvesting workers in South Gujarat, workers were getting Rs 238 per tonne. Whereas, the findings of the ergonomic study (time-motion study) done by the Centre for Labour Research and Action in collaboration with IIT Bombay revealed that the workers should be getting 539 Rs per tonne as minimum wage.
Using this study coupled with another study – A Bitter Harvest (CLRA, 2017), the union launched a massive awareness campaign among the workers regarding the state of sugarcane harvesters and advocated for dignified living wages and improved conditions of the workers. 
The campaign resulted in a mass workers’ movement in 2019 where sugarcane harvesters in the source area (Dang, Tapi and Dhule-Nandurbar) refused to go to work at the sugar factories unless the rate per tonne was increased by the sugar factories. As a result, the sugar factories increased the rate to Rs 275 per tonne.
In 2021, the government increased the minimum agricultural wage but the minimum wage for sugarcane harvesters did not see any increase and continued to remain stagnant for more than six years. 
As the representative of the sugarcane harvesting workers, Majur Adhikar Manch submitted a memorandum containing a charter of demands to the labour commissioner at Gandhinagar as well as the Gujarat Sugar Cooperative Federation. 
The union also filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in the Gujarat high court in the same year to demand a hike in the minimum wages of sugarcane harvesters.
As a result of these advocacy efforts, the Gujarat government issued a draft notification on 5th February 2022 where it hiked the minimum wage for sugarcane harvesting workers to 476 Rs per tonne. However, the fight still continued for the government to issue a final notification of the wage hike in the Gazette. 
The union organised public campaigns in the source areas, gave memorandums to MLAs of all political parties in Gujarat and continuously voiced workers’ concerns in the tripartite meetings. Last harvesting season (2022), all the Mukadams from South Gujarat refused to sign any agreement with sugar factories till Rs 476 per tonne rate was promised by the sugar factories.
Finally, eight years after the last revision, the Gujarat government has raised the minimum daily wages of sugarcane workers by 100 per cent; from Rs 238 per tonne to Rs 476 per tonne which will benefit more than two lakh sugarcane workers in the state. This is a huge success achieved by the 8 years-long struggle led by the workers’ movement.
*Secretary, Dang unit of the Majoor Adhikar Manch


PREETI said…
In these times of labour being touted as cheapest commodity, to built a movement and a pressure to force Govt. to notify, ias a big victory. Long live this struggle for more labour rights in time to come. CONGRATS JAYESHBHAI AND TEAM


'Very low rung in quality ladder': Critique of ICMR study on 'sudden deaths' post-2021

By Bhaskaran Raman*  Since about mid-2021, a new phenomenon of extreme concern has been observed throughout the world, including India : unexplained sudden deaths of seemingly healthy and active people, especially youngsters. In the recently concluded Navratri garba celebrations, an unprecedented number of young persons succumbed to heart attack deaths. After a long delay, ICMR (Indian Council for Medical Research) has finally has published a case-control study on sudden deaths among Indians of age 18-45.

SC 'appears to foster' culture of secrecy, does not seek electoral bond details from SBI

By Rosamma Thomas*  In its order of November 2, 2023 on the case of Association for Democratic Reforms vs Union of India contesting constitutional validity of electoral bonds, the Supreme Court directed all political parties to give particulars of the bonds received by them in sealed covers to the Election Commission of India. SC sought that information be updated until September 2023. 

How national chauvinism 'overtook' sport despite cricketing glory of World Cup 2023

By Harsh Thakor*  The recently-concluded cricket World Cup was a testimony or manifestation of the thrills, intensity, twists and turns in sport and evolution of the game of cricket. It carried on the trend of the World Cups of yesteryears. Possibly, this was the best ever Indian team in a World Cup, and arguably amongst the best ever to contest a World Cup.

A Hindu alternative to Valentine's Day? 'Shiv-Parvati was first love marriage in Universe'

By Rajiv Shah*   The other day, I was searching on Google a quote on Maha Shivratri which I wanted to send to someone, a confirmed Shiv Bhakt, quite close to me -- with an underlying message to act positively instead of being negative. On top of the search, I chanced upon an article in, imagine!, a Nashik Corporation site which offered me something very unusual. 

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

Only 12% of schools RTE compliant: Whither 6% budgetary allocation for education?

By Ambarish Rai* Despite Indian state’s commitment of 6% GDP on education, the Finance Minister completely ignored right to education for children and strengthening implementation of RTE Act which makes education a fundamental right in her budget speech . The Right to Education (RTE) Forum, which is a collective of different stakeholders in education, condemns this neglect of a legal entitlement, which is unconstitutional and demand for overall increase in the budget to ensure improvement in learning outcomes and overall enhancement of quality education.

Savarkar in Ahmedabad 'declared' two-nation theory in 1937, Jinnah followed 3 years later

By Our Representative One of the top freedom fighters whom BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi revere the most, Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, was also a great supporter of the two nation theory for India, one for Hindus another for Muslims, claims a new expose on the man who is also known to be the original proponent of the concept of Hindutva.

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

'Ambiguous policy': India late in advocating EVs as energy storage in national grid

By Shankar Sharma*  This is regarding the points raised by the Chief Electricity Authority’s (CEA's) advocacy for usage of electrical vehicles (EVs) as energy storage technology, and few associated issues . An objective reading of what he states should reiterate the enormously growing importance of battery energy storage systems (BESS) in our need to transition to a net-zero carbon scenario for the country.

Is India emulating west, 'using' anti-terror plank to justify state-supported violence?

Fahad Ahmad, Baljit Nagra*  Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has accused India of being involved in the assassination of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a Canadian Sikh leader, on Canadian soil. Narendra Modi’s right-wing Hindu nationalist Indian government is defiant and denies involvement. Indian officials have instead admonished Canada for being a “ safe haven ” for Sikh “terrorism,” a pejorative for Sikh self-determination .