Bihar: Labourers, Women Scheme Workers Hit the Streets on Bharat Bandh

The protesters included midday meal workers, ASHA workers, non-gazetted employees, contractual workers, MGNREGA workers and transport unionists.

Patna: The countrywide strike, called by 10 central trade unions and independent forums, was seen in nearly all districts of Bihar.

Unions that participated in the strike included All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC), Centre of Indian Trade Union (CITU), Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC), All India Central Council of Trade Unions (AICCTU), Trade Union Coordination Centre (TUCC), and Hind Mazdoor Sabha (HMS).

Workers and activists gathered at Patna’s Dak Bungla Chowk and raised slogans against the government’s anti-people policies.

The protesters included midday meal workers, ASHA workers, non-gazetted employees, contractual workers, MGNREGA workers and transport unionists.

Bihar State Auto Union general secretary Raj Kumar Jha, told The Wire that the strike went well thanks to the presence of lorry and bus drivers, auto rickshaw drivers and also petrol pump workers. “Our focus was to put up resistance against the anti-worker polices of both state and central government which includes ban of diesel auto from March 31, 2020,” he added.

Members of AIKS strike at Bihar. Photo: Saurav Kumar

Saroj Chaubey, state secretary of the Bihar Mid Day Meal Workers organisation, said districts of Patna, Samastipur, Ara, Munger, Saharsa, East Champaran, Muzaffarpur, Darbhanga, Nawada and Jehanabad saw good mass mobilisation. “People raised slogans such as pandrah sau main dum nahin, ikkis hazaar se kam nahi which means that there is no strength in Rs 1,500 and we demand no less than Rs 21,000,” he said.

Also read: Bharat Bandh: 55 Held For Violence Across Bengal, 15 Lakh Power Sector Workers Strike

Accredited Social Health Workers (ASHA) workers and Anganwadi workers demanded ‘worker’ status to all scheme workers who by virtue of not being officially categorised as ‘workers’, do not come under most of the labour laws in the country.

CITU state leader Arun Kumar Mishra said, “The Bihar chapter of all India strike went extremely well with coordination of all the trade unions and the support from the common man. The outburst against policies such as CAA-NRC of the government was visible. Issues of massive unemployment, price rise, distortion of labour laws and unprecedented sale of public sector and mergers of banks have led to mass eruption.”

ASHA workers strike in Bihar. Photo: Saurav Kumar

All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) Bihar leader Ashok Singh said the rural workforce showed full participation with no supply or restricted supply of vegetables to the mandis of local areas and nearby towns. Construction workers were also seen in huge numbers statewide.

MGNREGA workers claimed to not have been given their wages since months. Nor are there enough jobs for them, they said.

Premchand Kumar Sinha, a leader of Bihar Non-Gazetted Employees Federation (Gope Group), said government employees joined the workers’ strike in large numbers to express their anger in districts of Darbhanga, Buxar, Gaya, East-West Champaran, Ara, Samastipur, Saharsa, and Muzaffarpur,

Rannvijay, general secretary of the AICCTU, claimed that Patna town alone had participation of more than 10,000 people and statewide more than 2 crore workers participated. “Patliputra Industrial area, Nalanda Biscuit factory and Sudha Dairy factory located at Phulwarisharif saw large protests,” he added. 

The strikes were notable for the participation of women scheme workers and their entirely non-violent nature in the state.

Saurav Kumar is an independent journalist.