During the Vidhan Sabha session yesterday, various organisations of agricultural or landless labour of Punjab, converged at the public district headquarters in 5 districts and hundreds of villages of Punjab, inspite of the intervention of heavy rainfall. On the other hand levies like electricity bills are imposed on them. It was undertaken as a follow up of a 3 day protest in Patiala last month, and is preparation for a spark to turn into a prairie fire through gheraoing the chief minister’s residence at Moti Mahal.Positive that the participants constituted almost every trend in the revolutionary democratic camp. They accused Punjab’s Congress government of not even giving scant respect to the the rights issues of Dalits, labourers.
Such a protest has great significance in context of the massive debts incurred on the agricultural labour community mainly constituting dalits , and how their genuine rights like 1/3rd share of Panchayat land, regular employment or 10 marlas of land for each family, are still denied to them. On the other hand levies like electricity bills are imposed on them.
Without doubt the protest was one of the best united front initiatives by the Communist and democratic revolutionary camp. It would have been worth every democratic person to witness how the agricultural labourers stormed the various areas, embarrassing the ruling calluses in the very thick of their skin. The leaders all announced the gherao of the chief minister’ s house at Moti Mahal on September 13th and vociferously condemned the lathi charge of farmers in Moga.Such protests are like a breeding pit for crystallising a sustained resistance movement of dalit agricultural labour. The photos were simply heart touching the manner they entrapped the dens of the rulers, sparkling the spirit of resistance like a thunderstorm bursting.
Earlier a preparatory meeting was held in Bhucho Khurd village in Bathinda with leaders of the Punjab Khet Mazdoor Union from Faridkot,Moga,Muktsar ,Sangrur and Bathinda.With painstaking effort, a sustained campaign was undertaken with a series of meetings and door to door campaigns ,to mobilise people from all over the state was undertaken ,encompassing more than 100 villages.
The largest or most qualitative contribution was made by the Punjab Khet Mazdoor union,followed by Pendu Mazdoor Union, Dehati Mazdoor Sabha, Mazdoor Mukti Morcha, Khet Mazdoor Sabha ,Krantikari Pendu Mazdoor Union and Punjab Khet Mazdoor Sabha.
Punjab Khet Labour Union State General Secretary Laxman Singh Sewevala and State Press Secretary of Rural Labour Union Punjab Kashmir Singh Ghugshore informed the press through a written statement on the loan waiver of labourers under the invitation of joint front of rural and farm labour organizations, public District Headquarters Bathinda, Faridkot, Barnala, Jalandhar and Naya city today on issues of implementation of electricity bill, employment guarantee, abolishing land distribution and forcing Dalits etc. Rampura, Hundreds of villages of 16 districts including Baghapurana, Nihal Singh Wala, Ajitwal, Mahal Kalan, Bhikhiwind, Balachaur, Tapa, Dasuha, Dhanola, Channo, Mahalkalan, Lohian, Noormahal, Kartarpur, Baba Bakala, Kotakpura, Dhariwal, Batala, Abohar and Boha Protests were held in villages. Today’s protests were addressed by Bhagwant Singh Samo, President of Mazdoor Mukti Morcha Punjab, Babli Atwal, President of Krantikari Village Labour Union, Darshan Nahar, President of Rural Labour Union Punjab Tarsem Peter, President of Punjab Khet Labour Union Zora Singh Nasrali Devi Kumari, General Secretary of Punjab Khet Labour Sabha and various speakers including President of Krantikari Rural Labour Union Punjab Sanjeev Mintu addressed.
They demanded that Cabinet Minister Brahm Mahindra and various departments officials during a meeting with labour leaders on August 25, adding labourers on meters unconditionally and restore labourers flour cards, making new cards What was decided has not yet been implemented and the Captain government has also refrained from a one-day session of the Legislative Assembly to revoke amendments to the labour laws.
Spokespersons demanded that entire loans of labourers and poor farmers including microfinance companies, be waived off, unconditional membership be awarded to unconventional labourers in co-up societies, arrangement for cheaper prices for all kitchen use items through ration depots Go, like agriculture motors, the entire domestic electricity bill of labourers should be waived off by removing the condition of caste, religion and load, and the dues of the meters should eliminated , the homeless and needy should be given plots and grants, permanent employment should be given to the labourers throughout the year. Employment should be guaranteed and all adults should be given yearly work for Rs 600 per day in MNREGA, third part of the panchayat lands should be given to the labourers at cheap prices, Nazrul land ownership rights should be given and by implementing land reforms, extra land should be distributed among labourers, privatization policies should be cancelled, old age widow and disabled pension should be given Rs 58 a month and old age pension age limit is 55 years for women and 58 for men Let the year be done.
Labour leaders announced that they will continue the struggle until the demands are fulfilled and the Chief Minister’s Moti Mahal in Patiala will be surrounded by thousands of labour men and women on September 13.
The most impactful protest took place in Bathinda,comprising around 2000 persons ,taking place amidst heavy flooding. The protesters gathered near the Rose Garden area and after representatives from different unions of labourers addressed the gathering. They carried out a protest march in different parts of the city and raised slogans against state and central governments. Members of the Dehati Mazdoor Sabha, Mazdoor Mukti Morcha, Khet Mazdoor Sabha and Punjab Khet Mazdoor Sabha participated in the protest. The 2nd most impactful region was Muktsar,with protests in scores of villages.
I spoke to Punjab Khet Mazdoor Union secretary Lacchman Sewewala who sounded quite optimistic about the success of the Gherao outside Moti mahal.
Harsh Thakor is a freelance journalist. Toured India, particularly Punjab .Written on Mass movements ,,Massline,Maoism on blogs like Democracy and Class Struggle and frontierweekly .An avid cricket lover too who has posted writings on blogs like Pakpassion Indian Cricket Fans and Sulekha.com.