CK Saji Narayanan
DR Jagadish Bhagavati, who is a world renowned economist was invited to deliver a speech in parliament in the presence of Prime Minister, Opposition leader etc. The subject was “Growth and poverty”. His speech as well as reactions to his speech has been brought out in the form of a book with the same title. He found it hard to explain that growth and poverty exist in our country simultaneously. This is a paradoxical situation. We face an unbalanced growth taking place in the country.
Labour sector is moving through an explosive situation both in organised and unorganised sectors. Both the sectors are grossly neglected. The total size of labour sector now comes to about 47 crores which is nearly 40% of the total population. Organised sector is now faced with mainly loss of employment and increase of contract labour; whereas the unorganised sector is without proper wages, service conditions and social security protections. Workers in villages work in very bad working conditions with inadequate wages. Many of them live like cattle.
Almost all the systems have failed to liberate them socially and economically. All systems like Government Departments, Political parties, Social organisations, Judiciary, Media etc. including Trade Unions have failed to improve their conditions. So divisive tendencies like Naxalism, terrorism etc. are taking roots among them. There is the so called red corridor starting from Nepal border up to Andhra Pradesh, which is also the country’s poverty belt. People in the villages want socio-economic liberation. Trade unions are the group most proximate with the working poor in this country. Hence trade unions can act as a catalyst to bring radical changes in the development trajectory. The miserable conditions in many parts of our country tell us to go for radical change. Especially in the unorganised sector it is a battle for total change.
Now what is the driving force of social progression? Why we need an agenda for change? Karl Marx believed in a process of constant class struggle based on dialecticism, that will bring change. Capitalism also believes in struggle for existence and competition. But we believe in co operation and co existence of all. So we reject violent revolution, and opt for navothan. i.e. not kranti but samkranti. We do not believe in class interests and class conflicts, but we stress on human brotherhood.
We often speak about param vaibhav of our Nation. When are we going to achieve it? Known leftist economist Prabhat Patnaik in his latest book “Re-envisioning Socialism” (2011) wrote, ‘the socialism that we envisage will take at least 300 years to come’. Frontline magazine commented, ‘who want the socialism that will come after 300 years!’ So we have to be practical visionaries. Shri Doctor Hedgewar had said- “What we wish is not to see Sangh celebrating silver jubilee, golden jubilee etc. We wish to see at the earliest, Sangh fulfilling its aim and society merging with Sangh.” Vision is not dream, but an advance realisation. Shri Eknathji was entrusted with the work of constructing the great Vivekananda memorial at Kanyakumari. He went to the Kanyakumari sea shore with a co-worker from Calcutta, sat there and looking at the rock asked- “What do you see there?” “Nothing” was the reply from the co worker. Eknathji said, “But I see in front of my eyes a big memorial on that rock!” He had a vision and was sleepless till it was achieved. Determination makes impossible things possible. Even to bring about a small change, everyone has to become a nav Bhagiratha.
What is the chemistry for a total change? In the 1970s, Jayprakash Narayan started a student movement in Bihar and made a call for “Total Revolution”. Late Shri Nanaji Deshmukh brought JP and his concept of total revolution to our movement. Thus our movement became a part of it. But all his dream of total revolution ended with the failure of the political experiment of Janata Government. Total revolution and “sarvepi sukhina santu…” are similar in content. Let us bring a non-violent revolution in village India. Our Antyodaya concept also says that fast changes should reach the last man in the country. Let us not be satisfied with anything short of total change; nothing short of total transformation is acceptable for the rural poor. Government’s slow pace of progression is of no use to the Nation. An example is the recent Child labour elimination programme. Government planned elimination process in 250 districts, that also at the district centres. So how many decades it will take for total elimination of child labour: one century? So, social progression has to be revolutionised. Governance for the people is to be reinstated. This is important for trade unions, as 40% of the population is labourers.
Change has to be from work without quality to quality work or decent work as proposed by ILO. UN has come with a proposal to eradicate world poverty through its 2nd phase of MDG (Millennium Development Goal) starting from 2015 involving trade unions also. Organised sector and unorganised sector have different issues and the issues are very large. So trade unions may have to adopt new styles and methods while going to the vast area of unorganised sector. Minor programmes here and there will not be able to bring any change. Trade unions are well aware that the long used conventional trade union methodology will not suit to meet the emerging challenges in the world of work.
India lives in villages. BMS which is working closely with the lowest strata of the society, has taken up the challenge of transforming the situation. In the last National conference of BMS held at Jalgaon, Maharashtra, it had given a new direction to the trade union movement by raising two slogans: “Organise the unorganised” and “March to Villages”. This is giving thrust to the liberation of vulnerables in the country. We also brought a younger leadership to the trade union movement.
Today the workers in the country have recognised BMS as a powerful instrument of change. BMS is the largest trade union in the country, and second largest in the world (next to Chinese trade union ACFTU). Trade unions have changed a lot in their attitude because of BMS leadership in the joint trade union movement. Bread and butter trade unionism has been changed to a movement of National development. Developmental issues are at the centre of trade union movement now. So trade unions in the country had to come together under the leadership of BMS and conduct National strike with the slogan “Save workers, save the Nation”. Out of 10 demands raised in the Joint Strike, five are general which relates to people in general and only 5 are directly related to workers. This is the new Trade Union activism which BMS has initiated in the country. The mighty workforce is going to display its virat roop. The rally of BMS on 23 November 2011 was historic in this struggle. The strike on 28 February 2012 which was declared jointly by 11 Central Trade Unions was the next step towards this. The struggle was further intensified with a two days strike on 20, 21 February 2013. The future course of action will be decided shortly.
For bringing about total change, a large army of dedicated and efficient workers are required. Organisation can survive test of time only when there is such an army of workers. That is the process of reaching the unreached. There is a book called “Rise and fall of Communism” written by Archie Brown. It tells the story of communism which has inspired the youths in its initial days. But Communism failed in passage of time due to various reasons, including the failure of its leaders. This applies to every organisation, unless its leadership is vigilant about it. Leadership should be persons of principles. The Nation still want a leadership which uphold values, to bring changes in the country. That is what we saw in the unprecedented and sudden expectation shown by the people towards the agitation of Shri Anna Hazare. Most of his supporters were youths. People want value based change. This is an indication to movements like ours, who believe in values. Only our Sangh movement can supply to the nation a dedicated leadership based on values.
Our pace of social progression has to be accelerated, because starving people cannot wait. March forward fast, till the goal is reached. This is the Bharat Mata pooja that we can do.
(The writer is national president of Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh)?