Over 5 lakh coal workers stop work protesting privatisation; may extend 3-day strike

AM Jigeesh New Delhi | Updated on July 03, 2020 Published on July 03, 2020

Stranded vehicles at Godhra mines during the coal strike in Dhanbad on Thursday   -  -

On the first day of the three-day strike in the coal industry, the federations and unions, including the BMS, claimed more than five lakh people participated in the strike directly and about 25 lakh workers from allied sectors participated. Production, loading and transportation of coal, according to the trade unions, has stopped. Buoyed by the support they are planning to extend the strike or even announce an indefinite strike very soon, they said.

The unions are demanding the Government withdraw its decision on commercial mining of coal and give up privatisation of Coal Indian Limited (CIL) or Singareni Collieries Company Limited (SCCL). The unions are also opposed Central Mine Planning and Design Institute from CIL. They have also demanded enforcement of enhanced wages to contract workers in CIL and SCCL and implement the clauses in the National Coal Wage Agreement that provide for higher wages for workers.

Senior BMS leader BK Rai said the strike was a warning to the Centre which is privatising public sector. “Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah consider workers as untouchables. They are not ready to even meet us or listen to us. They work on behalf of some corporate houses. Modi is losing respect among people for his decision to privatise coal, railways, airlines, airports and other public sector infrastructure,” Rai said. He added that the trade unions will decide the next course of action on Friday or Saturday. “We have a proposal before us that the strike must be extended,” he said.

Indefinite strike

All India Coal Workers Federation general secretary DD Ramanandan told BusinessLine that workers may go for indefinite strike if the Centre does not heed their demands. “We got massive support for the strike on the first day from the nine coal-producing States—Telangana, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Odisha, Assam and Jharkhand. About five lakh workers, including those who are on contract, participated in it. None of the three lakh trucks that ply in this sector hit the road. Even the shops in coal belts did not open in support of the strike,” Ramanandan said. “The Prime Minister himself came forward to launch the process of auction on June 18, hence the decision of unions to choose this day to protest and give strike notice was taken. Even the earlier auctioned, allotted coal blocks could not be started as per schedule which need to be cancelled immediately,” they said in a statement.

Ramanandan and Rai said the talks with the Union Coal and Minister Pralhad Joshi and Union Coal Secretary were inconclusive and the Centre was non-committal, particularly on stopping commercial mining.

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Published on July 03, 2020
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