2022-The Year Gone By: Glimpses of Struggle of Labour against Capital- A National Overview

The Year After Covid

2022 has been a year relatively free of covid, but that has not really meant much for the working classes. It has been a year in which lopsided and pro-corporate economic policies have continued to bring hardships to the workers. At the same time, the year has witnessed several movements by workers all over the country, including several movements led by AICCTU.

India started the year 2022 at a very low rank on the Human Development Index (HDI), released by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). India was ranked 132 out of 191 countries and territories. This shows how poor the majority of our people are, and how badly the country needed economic policies that favoured the poor and the working classes.

The HDI gauges a nation's average performance in the three fundamental areas of human development— long and healthy life, education, and respectable standard of living. It is calculated using the Gross National Income (GNI) per capita, mean years of education, expected years of education, and life expectancy at birth.

According to the report, the decline in India's life expectancy from 69.7 years to 67.2 years during the survey period was what caused the HDI to fall from 0.645 in 2019 to 0.633 in 2021. There was a drop in the expected number of years in schooling from 12.2 years to 11.9 years, despite an increase in the mean years of schooling from 6.5 years to 6.7 years.

Female life expectancy fell from 71 years in 2020 to 68.8 years in 2021, according to the report. Women's average years of schooling fell from 12.6 to 11.9 years during the same period. However, India's Gender Inequality Index value improved slightly in the latest report compared to the 2020 index (0.490 vs 0.493), after gender inequality worsened between 2019 and 2020 (0.486 vs 0.493). But India’s female labour force participation ratio is also abysmally low.

Labour Codes, All Out Contractualisation and Sell Out of Public Resources: 2022 from the Ruling Class

With little significant improvement in standard of living, the year 2022 has been marked by thorough preparations for implementing the anti-worker labour codes. The Government of India organised a Labour Ministers’ conference at Tirupati on 25–26 August 2022 without any representatives of any central trade unions. The conference was virtually inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The conference was based on four themes: 1. Integrating e-shram portal with others so as to make it a single portal for any social security scheme by the union and state governments. 2. Swasthya se Samriddhi for supposedly improving medical care and services through ESI hospitals run by State Governments and integration with PMJAY (Prime Minister Jan Arogya Yojana). 3. On framing rules under Labour Codes and modalities for its implementation. 4. Vision “Shramev Jayate@2047” or Vision 2047.

This was nothing but yet another step towards scripting modern day slavery, denying minimum wages, robbing job security, health, and social security, and preparing grounds for a renewed enslavement of women.

The conference declared that the concept of formalisation may undergo changes with flexibility in working conditions and prevalence of gig and platforms workers. All existing traditional work can become obsolete and new jobs resembling gig and platform workers can grow. The number of gig and platform workers can increase from the present 77 lakhs to 2.35 crores.

The Agneepath scheme, which contractualized army labour, shows that the government is ready to push through contractualisation even at the cost of national security. 

The Modi government is considering gig and platform work, without an iota of any security, as the model of work for 2047 while the demand of trade unions and workers in the country is to provide legal protection to these emerging sections of workers.

Artificial Intelligence and Robotics can change not only the nature of work but also the lives of the people. No interference of the state in workers lives is nothing but a jungle raj of corporate capital, where workers would be pushed to survive at the mercy of capital. Unfortunately, this is the dream of our Prime Minister. And it came to the fore even more strongly in 2022.

Resistance of the Working Class

The year gone by has also witnessed protracted workers’ movement at the workplaces and beyond. The most inspiring of them was the energetic nationwide protest by the country’s job seeking youth against the devastating Agneepath scheme that has introduced all out contractualisation even in the army.

Among other sectors, under the banner of AICCTU, sanitation workers, construction workers, and sections of industrial workers have fought militant battles for their rights at the workplaces as well as for their right to the city. Teachers and other professionals facing retrenchment have also launched strikes demanding better pay and secure working conditions.

The National Council Meeting of AICCTU took place in July in Coimbatore. It resolved to intensify the struggle against the disastrous policies of the Modi regime. It decided to launch a country-wide campaign in the month of September 2022, which saw protests all over the country.

The nationwide campaign demanded the repeal of the four anti-labour codes and scrapping of the National Monetization Pipeline, in addition to protesting the escalating unemployment, skyrocketing price-rise, rampant privatization, contractualisation of work force, massive retrenchment, wage cut and dismantling of social security including welfare boards.

In November, a Scheme Workers’ Mahadharna happened in Delhi which witnessed a mobilization of 3000 people from all over the country. Subsequently, the workers’ issues were highlighted sharply in the Delhi Municipal elections, building on the yearlong organizing in Delhi’s working-class neighbourhoods around workers’ right to the city.

In Bangalore, the movement of the ITI workers continued, and the year ended with a workers’ movement against retrenchment breaking out in the Yazaki factory in Bangalore in which AICCTU is playing a key role.

The new year has begun with an order of displacement of more than 4,000 families in Uttarakhand’s Haldwani. Thousands of families in different parts of Bihar also await displacement. The new year also begins with the cold defying sit in of the brave families of Haldwani against the order of displacement. The struggle of the toiling masses against the profit seeking capital shall continue, for a new beginning of the country’s future.