Did Adani Gangavaram Port Limited Deceive Fishermen & Workers?

Adani Gangavaram Port Strike
Adani Gangavaram Port Strike – courtesy Deccan Chronicle

Adani Gangavaram Port workers are on a strike since April 10, 2024 and due to stoppage of Coal supply to the giant steel plant RNIL may shut down within a few days as a newspaper report [[1]] says. Besides Adani Port & Special Economic Zone, the PSU steel plant is also eager to see the end of the strike, but the last meeting between the workers and port authority on May 9 remained inconclusive [[2]]. The port authority is talking with the striking workers only because the High Court issued a directive on April 26 to do so [[3]], it is not taking place as a due process normally we are used to seeing in case of industrial disputes. The High Court saw some special scenarios, like the General secretary of Steel Executives Association petitioned for uninterrupted coal supply to RINL popularly known as Vizag Steel Plant, Advocate General on behalf of state administration clarified that if port authority or police force act harshly agitating workers may take extreme steps (‘workers on strike are threatening to self-immolate themselves’) and etc. [[4]]


We also saw a photo in The Hindu (dated May 9) showing a rally of Vizag Steel regular workers and contract workers going towards the port on May 8 demanding release of coking coal [[5]] which indirectly means calling the strike to end. This is also rather unusual.  From that very report we also came to know the category of workers spearheading the strike and agitation: R&R workers or Rehabilitation and Resettlement workers. This name bears a memory. They were some of the villagers of Gangavaram and Dibbapalem villages who were evicted years ago, whose land was taken for the construction of the port. They were promised jobs in the port. 550 of them got jobs as ‘unskilled workers’ and according to some workers of this category, they are getting a consolidated amount of 15,000-17,000 only, which is far below the industrial minimum wages of the state (Andhra Pradesh). They have been agitating for one year and now they are on strike. This strike was supported by all the villagers and also the other workers of Adani Gangavaram Port Limited (AGPL) [[6]]. Workers of Vizag Port on the other hand, those who are in the category of ‘Unskilled Workers’ earn Rs 28,990 per month (12-14K per month more than R&R workers of the AGPL), while semi-skilled workers get Rs 31,460, skilled workers Rs 32,760, and highly skilled workers earn Rs 35,620 a month [[7]]. Additionally, they get DA that gets merged into basic pay at a 5 years interval.

So, just 5 km north-east by the same Bay of Bengal ‘unskilled’ workers of a govt owned port get almost twice the salary! When govt was forcefully acquiring land of two villages Gangavaram and Dibbapalem evicting four thousand fishermen and their families for Adani’s port, a fight started. Several fishermen died in police firing in 2013. But alas, the price of a fisherman’s life was Rs 3,00,000 for the govt [[8]]. Only 550 of the fishermen got jobs as unskilled workers.

This February, villagers including R&R workers protested angrily in front of AGPL gate taking with them a dead body of one worker (named Apparao) who died allegedly from stomach pain. That worker and many of the unskilled ones handle coking coal (usually partly or fully in powder like form) and iron ore [[9]]. Many workers get affected by various illnesses [[10]]. But this port does not have a hospital and the affected workers, including the deceased one, do not get proper treatment as the workers lament [[11]]. These workers do not have any medical facility or allowance / insurance. Rules are different for another category of 2000 company-hired contractor workers and 1200 permanent workers [[12]]. The villages get polluted as dust travels with wind. In Kerala thousands of fishermen fought against Adani and Kerala’s ‘Left’ govt alliance against land acquisition for Adani port there. Those fishermen there of course heard of compensation and jobs. They can bear in mind what happened to fishermen and their villages in Andhra.

Last year in June when workers started their agitation the port authority terminated service of 5 workers. 24 more workers were suspended [[13]]. With demand for reinstatement of all 29 and also the long-standing wage hike demand this year’s strike started.

One anecdote before this article ends; though it may be debated whether this episode was uncanny for the working-class movement or not, or whether it was funny or not: On May 8, entire staff of the Vizag Steel Plant, its officers including top-notch ones, all workers, trade union leaders, all marched together to the AGPL gate to ask for release of coking coal for the steel plant, otherwise the Vizag Steel’s operation would come to a close [[14]]. Why uncanny? During the last 40 years or so we saw many ‘workers movement’ to save factories, to run full-fledged production, etc. Perhaps these were first started under the leadership of CITU and other ‘left’ unions in West Bengal, and ‘solutions’ were workers bearing the crisis-load of the capitalists concerned, often leading to retrenchment (‘voluntary’ retirement), increase in work-load, DA-freeze, etc. In this episode, we the CITU/CPIM of Andhra bear the same eagerness for continuing production of RNIL. It is indeed a ‘logical’ ‘pragmatist’ step, logic and pragmatism in the age of defeat of the international socialist movement. Gone are the days when workers of one factory are going to strike in support of strike action of workers of another factory. This last-mentioned solidarity strike movement took place as early as about 100 years ago, in the 1930s in the Bengal Jute sector. Such movements were not rare in the international working-class movement; we may recall 1904 December –1905 January events in Petrograd, Russia, for example. Both these two strike waves started as a protest in only one factory against retrenchment of several workers fighting for some common cause, in case of the latter-mentioned movement the strike wave went ahead towards formation of revolutionary movement of workers and peasants. Many things changed as we moved from the ascending wave of international working-class struggle to the phase of its defeat. We should not think the ‘save your factory’ type movement is commonplace in the workers movement irrespective of phases of the international working-class movement.   

Support the AGPL workers strike!

Sandeep Banerjee is a political commentator


[1] RINL plant days away from shutdown due to coal supply crisis | Mint

https://www.livemint.com/companies/rinl-plant-days-away-from-shutdown-due-to-coal-supply-crisis-11715164776002.html

[2] Adani Port’s talks with striking workers remain inconclusive in Visakhapatnam | The Hindu www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Visakhapatnam/adani-ports-talks-with-striking-workers-remain-inconclusive-in-visakhapatnam/article68157632.ece

[3] HC asks Gangavaram port authorities to talk to agitating workers | India Today http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/109636082.cms

[4] Ibid

[5] See 2

[6] HRF extends support to the striking workers of Adani Gangavaram Port in Visakhapatnam | The Hindu https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Visakhapatnam/hrf-extends-support-to-the-striking-workers-of-adani-gangavaram-port-in-visakhapatnam/article68117154.ece

[7] Strike Halts work at Adani Gangavaram Port | https://www.deccanchronicle.com/news/strike-halts-work-at-adani-gangavaram-port-889346?infinitescroll=1

https://www.deccanchronicle.com/news/strike-halts-work-at-adani-gangavaram-port-889346

[8] Agitation against land acquisition for Gangavaram port rocks Assembly | https://www.business-standard.com/article/economy-policy/agitation-against-land-acquisition-for-gangavaram-port-rocks-assembly-106032801028_1.html

[9] Visakhapatnam: Villagers stage protest with a dead body against Gangavaram port management | https://www.newindianexpress.com/states/andhra-pradesh/2024/Feb/13/visakhapatnam-villagers-stage-protest-with-a-dead-body-against-gangavaram-port-management-2

[10] Usual illnesses due to iron ore handling can be understood from this paper: Morbidity Among Iron Ore Mine Workers in Goa |

https://journals.lww.com/ijph/fulltext/2014/58010/morbidity_among_iron_ore_mine_workers_in_goa.13.aspx#:~:text=Lung%20diseases%20are%20the%20major,contribute%20to%20its%20toxicological%20properties.

[11] See 9

[12] At Gangavaram port, two wage slabs and two different labour laws | timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/69064251.cms?utm_source=contentofinterest&utm_medium=text&utm_campaign=cppst

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/visakhapatnam/at-gangavaram-port-two-wage-slabs-and-2-different-labour-laws/articleshow/69064251.cms

[13] see 6

[14] VSP’s Entire Staff March to AGPL For Allowing Coking Coal Transit | https://www.deccanchronicle.com/southern-states/andhra-pradesh/vsps-entire-staff-march-to-agpl-for-allowing-coking-coal-transit-893166

https://www.deccanchronicle.com/southern-states/andhra-pradesh/vsps-entire-staff-march-to-agpl-for-allowing-coking-coal-transit-893166

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