The Communist Party of India’s MP and veteran trade union leader Gurudas Dasgupta was at his best in the Lok Sabha on April 26, 2007, where he lambasted his party-supported government on its track record over labour issues. He in fact, asked his comrades to review their support to this “blind-to-facts” government. However, it seems he still views the anti-labour attitude as a problem of the government’s eyes being “blind to facts” or being “closed”, not a systemic symptom related to the ‘class capacity’ of the State and the government.
Following is an excerpt from his speech published in Business Standard:
Madam, we have a unique coinage — facilitator. Government is the facilitator of economic growth. Since it is the facilitator of economic growth, its eyes are blind to facts. In order to open the door for foreign capital, eyes are closed. This is the economic background of your ministry. Madam, it is being understood deliberately — I do not say by the Ministry of Labour but the Ministry of Finance — that the trade union movement is a roadblock and all the labour laws are obstacles.
Madam, what is the situation? Honourable Labour Minister must be confronted with facts. The economic figures are like this. Productivity has increased in the country. Output per unit has increased in the country. Untaxed dividend has increased in the country. You understand untaxed dividends. You never touch the dividend. Mr. Chidambaram had no political will to touch the dividend because he is friendly to investors, I do not say he is friendly to the corporates. Therefore, dividend is untaxed. There has been growth of not only millionaires but billionaires in the country.
Madam, please do not laugh at me if I say that it is easy to become a millionaire in India, but it is difficult to reduce poverty in India.
The Congress party came to power, defeating the BJP on the promise that it will do something better. Are they doing better? May I call Shri Chidambaram, Mr Failure?
Therefore, the point is that the leaders of the government are speaking of production and productivity. On how many occasions did our respected ministers including the prime minister attend the meetings of the CII and speak of production and productivity? Do they speak of violation of labour (laws)? Have we ever heard the prime minister speaking in this House about violation of labour law? Violation of labour law is not the agenda. The agenda is to clear the deck for more investment.
When the price rise is taking place, workers are not being given Dearness Allowance. Is it social justice? I would give two examples how DA is being flouted. There was a strike in West Bengal by 2.5 lakh jute workers. After prolonged two months strike they had been able to get DA up to 200 points when the DA was due to 320 points, and this was despite the attempt of the West Bengal government. The private sector just did not give the DA. What is the remedy?
I am giving a second example. Today, a strike is on at Hindustan Motors of the Birlas. What is their demand? For six years Birlas have not given any DA to the workers. The government of West Bengal is trying to help them. Last night, the meeting broke up and the management bluntly said that it would not give the DA. What is the remedy?
Trade union movement is considered to be a criminal offence. Let me give you a example. Maharashtra is under Congress rule. There was a strike in a transport company. Only a few days back, 30,000 people were retrenched in a single day. Is it a respect for democracy? Is it a respect for trade unionism? Is it a respect for human rights?
(Excerpts from CPI leader Gurudas Dasgupta’s speech in the Lok Sabha on April 26 over the Demands for Grants relating to the Ministry of Labour and Employment. Sumitra Mahajan was in the Chair)