Report by a correspondent of Mazdoor Ekta Committee
Thousands of workers of the informal sector, including construction, agriculture, domestic work, fisheries, etc. as well as gig workers, came together in a huge rally at Jantar Mantar, outside Parliament on February 7. They demanded comprehensive legal protection for their rights as workers.
The protest was organised by the Working Group on Legal Protection of Informal Workers. Many Trade Unions and workers’ organisations participated in the protest action and raised their voice in support of the rights of the informal sector workers.
Similar protest demonstrations are taking place in several states, from February 8th to 15th, with the aim of presenting a charter of their main demands to the central and state governments and political parties ahead of the 2024 General Elections.
Representatives of the participating organisations addressed the protesting workers. They drew attention to the plight of the informal sector workers, who constitute over 90% of India’s workforce, and contribute over 50% to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). They pointed out that the four labour codes that have been introduced by the central government are a cruel attack on the workers’ rights and will deprive workers in the informal sector of even the limited statutory protections that they had managed to secure in certain sectors, after many long years of struggle.
The protesting workers are demanding compulsory registration and recognition of workers and their unions, collective bargaining rights, and a guaranteed minimum wage. Their demands include provisions for occupational health and safety, formal recognition of women workers, and the establishment of sectoral welfare boards empowered to address the welfare needs of workers. The workers also emphasised the need for social security measures, including a monthly pension and housing provisions. They called for the withdrawal of the labour codes and the restoration of the legal rights to adequate safeguards, that workers in some sectors have won.
In unity with all the trade unions, workers’ organisations, kisan organisations, truck drivers’ and transporters’ associations, etc., the workers of the informal sector announced their full support for the all-India strike scheduled for February 16.