We Need to March on India’s Legislature

Lalan Kishor Singh

Summary: This commentary on the state of the Indian labor movement is by a rank-and-file activist in Western India. Along with a letter on the working conditions of security guards in India that was sent to the magistrates of the Supreme Court by a labor activist in Nagpur, India. – Editors.

The executive body of the modern state – i.e., the central legislature and the state legislatures – is nothing but the managing committee of the collective interests of the rich.

Friends, I am starting with a verse: First, they (the fascists) came for the Adivasis but I remained silent because I was not an Adivasi. Then they came for my neighbor, but I remained silent because I had no affection for him. They came for the communists, but I remained silent because I was not a communist. Then they came for the helpless and the minorities, but I remained silent because I was neither helpless nor a minority. They attacked workers and their unions, but I still remained silent because I was not a worker. Finally, they came for me but there was nobody to help and save me.

The above verse perfectly captures the reality of life. Ever since India became independent 76 years ago, the political parties in the country and the capitalist class have taken advantage of this reality to divide us and relentlessly attack us, and we have just kept watching. Through these attacks, they have destroyed the workers.

(i) Security guards are made to work 12 hours a day. Not even the minimum statutory rights and protections are extended to them. For working 12 hours daily, they get paid a salary of only Rs. 6,000 to Rs. 8,000 a month which is actually one-fourth of their statutory entitlement in the form of minimum wage.[1]

(ii) Establishments, whether government or private, are increasingly employing workers on contract in place of permanent workers. The principal employer pays the contractor Rs. 35,000 per worker but the worker receives only Rs. 15,000 to Rs. 17,000 per month. The contractors are agents of the government. It is as if the agents are running the government in the country.

(iii) The central government-owned Ordnance Factory has been corporatized, and the government now wants to sell weapons to other countries. It is also trying to take away the rights of Ordnance Factory workers.

(iv) Public sector companies are being sold off to private parties at a pittance. The sphere of public employment is reducing.

(v) Attempts are being made to privatize education and thereby keep poor children away from education. The standard of education in government schools and colleges is being deliberately brought down.

If one reflects deeply, one will realize that the condition of the poor and the workers has gone from being bad to worse. And here we are, taking out morchas (processions) and submitting petitions! Our leaders and officers throw them in the dustbin. This is what they have been doing for decades. Whom are we petitioning through these morchas? Our enemies who, for their selfish interests, sell themselves to the capitalists and guarantee to them that we would never come out of slavery. The government, administration, judiciary, and the state speak and stand for the rich. This is the bitter truth.

Therefore, the need today is not for taking our morchas on the legislature and submitting petitions to ministers; we need the workers to unitedly march on the legislature and compel the government to agree to our demands. We workers need to remain united because political parties would never want us to remain united and become strong.

Is anyone going to listen to security guard workers?

From management to contractors and the company, no one pays attention to the security guards who work for them, even though they have considerable responsibilities. The security guard checks the workers entering the factory and the goods going in and out. To prevent theft, they often risk their lives. They perform round-the-clock duties, including between the arrival and departure of the company’s owner.

The government had formed a board to supply security guards for those companies that do not have their own. But when we look at their salaries their condition is most pathetic. There is a board that mandates their salary but neither contractors nor officers of the law are willing to enforce its decisions.

At the present time, most companies have completely forgotten about the 8-hour day. Many security guards are responsible for working 12 hours a day for at times 30 days straight. They neither get holidays nor weekly leave. The contractor makes a deal with the companies to provide security guards, but in the long run, it is the contractor who becomes rich. While the contractor pays the company 12,000 rupees for a guard, the company pays the guard 7,000 or 8,000 rupees for a month of work of 12-hour days.[2] This is grossly unfair but no one bothers to investigate these conditions.

It has been learned from reliable sources that the contractor also gets plenty of support from the owners of the company. At some enterprises security guards are required to work 15 to 16 hours a day and are paid 7000 rupees for the entire month. That is approximately 125 rupees per 8 hours (think about when the security guard remains hungry how much he will be guarding on an empty stomach!) There is complete connivance between the contractor, the company owner, and law enforcement in this heinous robbery. In doing so, tens of millions of rupees are being embezzled every month from the security guards. The security guard is forced to work helplessly.

By the way, the Indian Constitution says forced labor and Mundi (head) trade is prohibited. Section 23 of the Constitution prohibits it. Under this system, the contractor sends Mundi (guards) to the company owner; in return, the contractor gets paid a huge amount. In this way, security guards are forced to work additional time while obtaining less salary. The guard cries over his fate but to whom should he tell? In his life, the company’s security comes first, and the rest of his life comes later.

Whom should they tell this to? There are no ears to listen to them and no eyes to see their plight because the ears and eyes have already been sold.

Therefore, I request you to please take appropriate decision on this urgent appeal.


[1] 60 rupees equate to roughly one US dollar.

[2] Editors’ note: 8,000 rupees comes to about $133 US dollars.


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