Why the Indian workers are so angry with Modi?

Why the Indian workers are so angry with Modi?

Indian workers showed their anger and discontent against the economic policies of Modi government. The workers are angry because Modi government has unleashed vicious attacks on their democratic-legal and economic rights.

They are angry because their wages are not rising with high inflation. Their real incomes are falling due to the rising inflation and price hike. They are losing jobs at fast pace because of economic slowdown.

They are angry because Modi and Indian capitalist elite is trying to put burden of this slowdown on the shoulders of working class. The slowdown in the economy is direct result of the flawed economic policies and strategies of Modi government and ruling capitalist elite.

The labour laws have been changed to give more powers to capitalists to further exploit the workers. The hire and fire right has been granted to employers. Severe restrictions have been imposed on strikes and collective bargaining rights. Modi tried to take away most of the protections provided to the workers in the past.

The policies of privatisation –liberalisation and neoliberal free market economy are hurting the Indian working class badly. Modi made promises of providing jobs and economic opportunities during election campaign. Now the economic slowdown in Indian economy is causing job losses. The real GDP growth rate has come down to under 4% from 8.7%.  

Unemployment has increased alarmingly, with 73 million people unemployed, 4.7 million losing their jobs, and a staggering youth unemployment rate of 28 percent. Even highly educated young people are not finding jobs.

Unemployment Rate in India increased to 8.50 percent in October from 7.20 percent in September of 2019. Unemployment Rate in India averaged 5.16 percent from 1983 until 2019, reaching an all time high of 8.50 percent in October of 2019.

Young people make up a significant share of the unemployed, with 18.7 percent of urban males aged between 15 and 29 without work, and a jobless rate of 27.2 percent for urban females in the same age group.

The numbers show that Modi's ambitious Make-in-India project, which aims to lift the share of domestic manufacturing from 17 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) to about 25 percent and create jobs for an estimated 1.2 million youth entering the market, has failed to take off.

The labour force participation rate, the proportion of the population that is working or seeking jobs, declined to 36.9 percent in 2017-2018 from 39.5 percent in 2011-2012, according to the report.
Industrial output has severely declined with the index of industrial production actually showing negative growth for three consecutive months. 

Energy demand and generation declined for the fourth quarter in a row in the country, indicating a severe slowdown in the economy. But that slowdown has not put a dent in the profits of the big corporations, which grew by 22 percent last year.

Added to that, the botched implementation of a centralized tax system under Modi has led to a huge revenue shortfall, blowing a massive hole in budgets across states leading to cuts in welfare projects. State governments have been forced to reduce the social spending. They are making cuts on education and health. 

Despite all that, the Modi government is hell bent on pushing through privatization of the state’s resources and banks, and proposing reactionary changes to labour laws to make them further palatable to the capitalists. This would lead to longer working hours and loss of job-security guarantees.

Despite the fact that India produced a record food and agriculture production-but Modi government is not allowing the more food being add to public distribution system to provide cheap food to poor people. Such a measure would reduce food prices and fill millions of hungry stomachs. The price of food is rapidly rising: wheat by 56 percent, rice by 14 percent, potatoes by 67 percent, and onions by 400 percent.

Even with the record food production, there is a severity of agrarian distress since peasants cannot recover decent prices from agricultural production, leading to high indebtedness and an epidemic of suicides.

Among the main demands of the striking workers are: an increase in minimum wages, universal social security cover, reining in rising prices, policies to curb raging joblessness, rollback of hostile/anti-worker labor law changes, an end to state resource sell-offs, and curbing contract and casual work.

Farmers and agricultural workers are demanding better prices for produce, an increase in wages and complete debt forgiveness. Additionally, they are demanding reimbursement for the losses suffered by farmers in Kashmir due to the Modi government’s act of taking away the constitutionally guaranteed autonomy of the state and imposing a lock-down severely affecting the agricultural sector there.
Leading up to the strike, massive numbers of people across India have been taking to the streets against a discriminatory modification to the citizenship law known as the Citizenship Amendment Act that excludes Muslim migrants from eligibility to regularize their immigration status, and also of potential loss of citizenship under a National Register of Citizens. Protesters see these laws as an assault on the secular constitution and a threat to Indian unity.

Workers and farmers didn’t confine the Jan. 8 strike to the economic struggle for higher wages and better working conditions but also extended it to societal issues by opposing the Modi government’s divisive agenda. Workers and farmers demanded the government drop the CAA and NRC, end attacks on minorities and those protesting against the government, and end its destruction of constitutional provisions safeguarding democratic rights.

A couple of days before the strike, students at the Jawaharlal Nehru University in India’s capital, Delhi, was picketing against a proposed fee hike — an astronomical increase that would force at least half the post-graduate students to leave their studies. A few masked people belonging to the student wing of the ruling BJP, with the complicity of police and the administration, went on a rampage armed with rods and sticks beating up both students and teachers.

This violence was recorded on film and further ignited students’ consciousness regarding the fascistic nature of the group supporting the government’s Hindutva theocratic ideology. Earlier brutality by the police against students demonstrating against CAA at two other universities — Jamia Millia Islamia and Aligarh Muslim University — had already heightened people’s anger.

The trade unions condemned recent attacks on students in Jamia Millia Islamia, Jawaharlal Nehru University, and Aligarh Muslim University. Student organizations in turn showed solidarity in over 60 universities and institutions by observing the strike with thousands joining protest marches after boycotting classes. They not only amplified the striking workers’ demands but also added their own demands against fee increases and commercialization of education.

The historic general strike was a strong rebuke to the Modi government’s attempts to divide people to facilitate its anti-worker agenda. The strike has demonstrated the unity and strength of workers, peasants, and students to push Modi back and build a lasting alliance to direct the spontaneous anger of the people towards the defeat of far-right bigotry.

The workers-students-young unemployed youth and peasants showed the class solidarity and unity on January 08.
                                                             Khalid Bhatti  

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