In a one-day strike on September 2, about 150 million workers across sectors have been protesting against Modi’s new labour policy – an unrestrained assault on workers’ rights —making this one of the biggest strikes in India’s history.
People’s movements against corporate land-grab, based on adivasi and poor-peasant resistance, have punctured Modi’s dream of handing large swathes of land to his corporate friends and he has had to withdraw the proposed corporate-friendly amendments to the Land Acquisition Ordinance, but other problems are brewing for him.
India’s massive trade union movement is organising against the labour law amendments which the Modi regime is trying to implement. These proposed changes represent the most brutal face of neoliberalism; they will effectively define away the rights of 80% of India’s workers and include measures which will increase accidents, encourage child labour, drastically weaken trade unions and make management less accountable.
The strike comes against a background where the BJP’s broken promises are coming home to roost. Army veterans, for example, are angry because their demand for “One Rank, One Pension” (OROP), once wholeheartedly promised by Modi during his election campaign is now being ignored and their protests being met with open repression.
As for India’s farmers, the shocking reality of the epidemic peasant suicides is simply being swept aside by the government as the result of individual psychological problems. The simmering rage in rural India (which has led to the demise of the land acquisition policy) is far from spent and is asserting itself in a variety of ways in different Indian states. In Gujarat, it is an important factor in the rise of Hardik Patel. Hardik’s absurd and reactionary demand for reservation for the Patels, one of India’s most powerful social groups, may well be a ploy to subvert the entire system of reservation as it has evolved over the years, but the fact that it has managed to rally hundreds of thousands of Patel youth in Modi’s own state clearly reflects the hard economic reality underlying the myth of Modi’s globalized Gujarat.
It is a land of corporate plunder, deepening agrarian crisis and farmer suicides where young people remain unemployed or slave away for paltry wages – very far from the vibrant globalised Gujarat, the land of milk and honey nourished by prosperous NRIs which Modi has been marketing to investors.
The movement against the land-grab ordinance has won a major victory; through the 2 September India-wide mass strike trade unions have also declared their resolve to defeat the proposed anti-worker labour law amendments, and across the country voices of resistance to the corporate-communal offensive of the Modi regime are getting louder.