The Call of the Central Committee of the CGPI on the occasion of May Day very correctly analyses that, in the light of recent developments, “capitalism stands nakedly exposed as an inhuman system, geared to keep enriching a super-rich minority at the cost of millions of human lives.” Nowhere has this been more apparent than in the way that crores upon crores of migrant workers have been treated during the corona virus outbreak in our country. Not only have their livelihoods and access to food and shelter been taken away from them overnight; but when they have tried to go back to their homes thousands of miles away on their bare feet, since all transport was stopped, they have been detained, beaten up, and rounded up like criminals, and taken to quarantine centres where the conditions are such that they are very likely to catch the coronavirus infection or other diseases.
The Call also pointed out that the capitalists and the state in addition plan to use the migrant workers as bonded labour, who are not even free to choose whether they want to work at a particular place or not. While most capitalists didn’t heed the government’s “request” that they continue to pay wages and provide shelter to their workers, they have been scheming to ensure that the workers be held captive so that they will be forced to work the minute operations are resumed. That is why for more than a month, workers in different cities and states were prevented from going back to their homes, even when millions of them had run out of all money and were unable to even get a square meal or a roof over their heads. It is only when thousands of workers revolted against this and came out on the streets and demanded arrangements to go back home, that the central and state governments finally had to make some concessions. Even here, they did all they could to stop workers from going back home. First, they refused to run trains for them, which is the only feasible means of transporting lakhs of workers to their homes in different parts of the country. And then, when they had to agree to run a few trains, they charged nearly double the fare from workers who had not even a few rupees left with them, so that the majority couldn’t go. This shows the utter barbarity of those in power.
Now comes the news that the government of Karnataka, just two days after it started to arrange trains for migrant workers to go back to their homes in Bihar, Odisha, UP and elsewhere, has cancelled all further trains. This comes just after a meeting of the Chief Minister Yediyurappa with a group of big builders and developers in Bengaluru. The CM shamelessly said that since “since construction and economic activities have resumed, so, unnecessary movement of labo0urers has to be regulated.” In other words, workers have to stay on in the state and work, whether they want to or not! For the last two days, thousands of workers in Bengaluru have been running from pillar to post to get their names registered for transport back to their villages and to board buses or trains. In the process, even the little money some of them had has got exhausted. Now they are told they have to stay and work, and that their employers and the government will “take good care” of them! If the capitalists and the government had been taking good care of them, why would lakhs of workers go through so much punishment to get away? This is unabashed criminal activity against the workers.
This latest move of the Karnataka Government shows that they are hand in glove with the big capitalists, and that they regard the workers as nothing other than bonded labour. The crisis is daily exposing the real nature of the system in this country. All people of conscience must join the trade unions and other activist groups in condemning this violation of the basic human rights of the workers.