All the concessions are for the super rich, says A. Soundararajan of the CITU

Published : Aug 29, 2019 07:00 IST

 A. Soundararajan of the CITU.

A. Soundararajan of the CITU.

“T hey [labourers] call me at night or whenever they can and tell me about their children; about the fact that they will not be able to afford the schools that they now go to,” said A. Soundararajan, a leader of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)’s trade union wing, the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), Chennai. “Yesterday a contract labourer who was asked to stop coming to work told me that he had moved his boy from a private school to a local corporation school,” he said. “He says he will be unable to pay the fees at the private school. What do I tell him?”

Just one industrial hub near Chennai, Sriperumbudur, employs about 50,000 contract labourers in the auto component sector. They are the ones who get affected first, and the last to regain employment if and when things look up. Almost all of them have been laid off, Soundararajan said.

“Like always, all the concessions are for the super rich and the industrialists, including the ones that Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced on August 23. There is nothing for the labourers,” he said. For all those who lost jobs post-demonetisation, there was no government support. The agrarian crisis is severe and there has not been a hike in the minimum support price [MSP] for a very long time. Barring the election-eve announcements, there has been no move to address rural concerns or the problems of labourers.

Soundararajan said the government’s hesitation to tap the rich is “wrong” and insisted that the rich should also pay a fair share of taxes. “If you say that the rich will have to pay taxes, where will they go? Where will they run away to? They have it good here. They will remain here. During a downturn, do they tell the labourers that they will take care of them? They don’t. Isn’t it their responsibility? Their lobby is much bigger and way better than any trade union. They can influence the government through a variety of means,” he said.

In his view, the government has not grasped the crux of the current crisis, which is loss of jobs. With more and more people losing jobs, demand for products and services will remain weak. “Ancillary industries have been finished off. The warehouses of Apollo Tyres, JK Tyres and MRF are full up in stock. They will be unable to produce more. They are declaring two or three days’ holiday a week. The added issue in many parts of India now is the floods in five States. This has killed any remaining demand in the retail market.”



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