The Political Roots of The National Protest Day

A news report appearing in Mint tells us that Oct 28 will be observed by unions as ‘National Protest Day’. The work will not be stopped, but the workers will join demonstrations before or after their working hours, according to the report. Some of the demands like ban on futures trading in commodities and making government aid to industry conditional on not firing workers are not the type workers can immediately relate to. They usually respond to immediate provocation.

Interesting is the observation that strikes have increased and that they have increasingly turned violent, and the reaction of an expert economist.

Here is the excerpt
“There has been a rise in strikes across the country and these have often turned violent. A manager at an auto-parts firm in south India was beaten to death by protesting workers last month, while the auto-manufacturing hub of Gurgaon, next to Delhi, has seen sporadic worker agitations for months.

But D H Pai Panandikar, head of the think-tank RPG Foundation, said attendance would likely be thin and not lead to violence or cloud India’s investment climate.

He linked the surge in trade union activity to a recent string of electoral losses by communist parties, both in Parliament and in states seen as leftist bastions.

The communists were part of the previous Congress-led government, but pulled out a year before the general elections in a row over a civil nuclear deal with the United States.

“As long as the communist parties had a coalition with the Congress, the trade union movement was a little bit quiet,” Panandikar said.

But with the communists’ political defeats the unions have to rely more on direct action to show their existence, while the communists in turn need the union action to try to boost their support.”

Communists may deny it, but there is a more than a grain of truth to what Mr. Pai Panandikar is saying. Unions unfortunately continue to be dominated by political parties, the focus remains more on political agenda than workers’ interests.