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Powerful Sugar Industrialists Force Tribal Workers to Call off their 14-day Strike

Shabina Akhtar 18 Oct 2019

Over 200000 tribal workers from Gujarat and Maharashtra annually migrate to Surat to harvest sugar collectively gathered under the banner of Majdur Adhikar Manch to demand higher daily wage among others



Sugar factory workers on strike

Surat/Kolkata: The 14-day-long strike called by the tribal workers who annually assemble in and around Surat to harvest sugarcane formally ended without much being promised to the protesting workers.

Traditionally, over 200000 tribal workers from Daang and Tapi district of Gujarat and Maharashtra’s Dhule and Nandurbar area migrate to Surat to harvest sugarcane.

But, these workers this year refused to migrate leaving their contractor and sugar factory owners in a fix.

Explaining the reason for the protest, Sudhir Katiyar, an Udaipur-based social activist working for the cause of migratory workers while speaking to eNewsroom said, “The workers work under conditions that are frequently referred to as modern-day slavery. A pair of worker toil for up to 12 hours a day to harvest and load on to trucks one metric tonne of sugarcane for which they are paid Rs. 255. Thus average daily wage works out to Rs. 127.50 that is significantly less than Rs. 178 per day for agriculture workers in Gujarat.”

Strike Banner and Charter of Demands

However, what makes their condition worse is the fact that these workers take advance from the contractors, which they repay on being paid. “At times these workers have to repay almost one-and-a-half times more than the money that their contractor had given,” said Katiyar.

On being asked the need for this, he explained, “The advance is necessitated by the fact that the factories do not pay the workers regular wages as defined under the Payment of Wages Act. Instead, they provide bare minimum food ration and pay wages at the end of the season in gross violation of the law. The workers live for six months literally on the road in tents of polythene sheets without any basic facilities like drinking water, electricity, and sanitation. Children migrate with their parents and join them at work as there are no educational facilities at the campsites.”
However, the strike also is historical in another sense. “The workers are employed by cooperative sugar factories of South Gujarat led by the Bardoli sugar factory that is the largest and oldest sugar factory. Bardoli is the site where Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel undertook the famous struggle for farmers against British colonial rulers. While he won a famous victory and got established as a premier leader in national politics, according to one set of historians, in the process he also betrayed the interests of the tribal farm workers on Patel farms. It has taken almost a century for tribal workers to organize for their dues,” explained Katiyar.

Sugar factory workers protest with their banners

However, the revolt didn’t seem to rattle the sugar factory owners, who on the other hand managed to manipulate or arm-twist the labours, who had already taken advance from their contractors.

Macwan added, “We want the daily wage to be fixed following the minimum wage draft notification which was passed on January 21, 2019. We have reached a compromise this year, but next year we will be better prepared to fight for the rights of the workers employed in the sugarcane farms.”

“On October 9, there was an informal meeting between the factory owners, contractors and the representatives of the Majdur Adhikar Manch, where they come to an informal agreement where the workers have been verbally promised to be paid a higher daily wage than what they have been getting till date,” informed Denis Macwan of Surat Committee.

He further said, “There was immense pressure from Ishwarsinh Patel, Chairman, Gujarat State Federation of co-op. Sugar Factories Ltd to end the strike. Also, the workers were supposed to return their advance, which could be cleared only after they harvested the sugarcane crop. So, the contractors compromised for a raised daily wage of Rs 300 per day.”

Macwan added, “We want the daily wage to be fixed following the minimum wage draft notification which was passed on January 21, 2019. We have reached a compromise this year, but next year we will be better prepared to fight for the rights of the workers employed in the sugarcane farms.”

Courtesy: enewsroom.in
 

Powerful Sugar Industrialists Force Tribal Workers to Call off their 14-day Strike

Over 200000 tribal workers from Gujarat and Maharashtra annually migrate to Surat to harvest sugar collectively gathered under the banner of Majdur Adhikar Manch to demand higher daily wage among others



Sugar factory workers on strike

Surat/Kolkata: The 14-day-long strike called by the tribal workers who annually assemble in and around Surat to harvest sugarcane formally ended without much being promised to the protesting workers.

Traditionally, over 200000 tribal workers from Daang and Tapi district of Gujarat and Maharashtra’s Dhule and Nandurbar area migrate to Surat to harvest sugarcane.

But, these workers this year refused to migrate leaving their contractor and sugar factory owners in a fix.

Explaining the reason for the protest, Sudhir Katiyar, an Udaipur-based social activist working for the cause of migratory workers while speaking to eNewsroom said, “The workers work under conditions that are frequently referred to as modern-day slavery. A pair of worker toil for up to 12 hours a day to harvest and load on to trucks one metric tonne of sugarcane for which they are paid Rs. 255. Thus average daily wage works out to Rs. 127.50 that is significantly less than Rs. 178 per day for agriculture workers in Gujarat.”

Strike Banner and Charter of Demands

However, what makes their condition worse is the fact that these workers take advance from the contractors, which they repay on being paid. “At times these workers have to repay almost one-and-a-half times more than the money that their contractor had given,” said Katiyar.

On being asked the need for this, he explained, “The advance is necessitated by the fact that the factories do not pay the workers regular wages as defined under the Payment of Wages Act. Instead, they provide bare minimum food ration and pay wages at the end of the season in gross violation of the law. The workers live for six months literally on the road in tents of polythene sheets without any basic facilities like drinking water, electricity, and sanitation. Children migrate with their parents and join them at work as there are no educational facilities at the campsites.”
However, the strike also is historical in another sense. “The workers are employed by cooperative sugar factories of South Gujarat led by the Bardoli sugar factory that is the largest and oldest sugar factory. Bardoli is the site where Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel undertook the famous struggle for farmers against British colonial rulers. While he won a famous victory and got established as a premier leader in national politics, according to one set of historians, in the process he also betrayed the interests of the tribal farm workers on Patel farms. It has taken almost a century for tribal workers to organize for their dues,” explained Katiyar.

Sugar factory workers protest with their banners

However, the revolt didn’t seem to rattle the sugar factory owners, who on the other hand managed to manipulate or arm-twist the labours, who had already taken advance from their contractors.

Macwan added, “We want the daily wage to be fixed following the minimum wage draft notification which was passed on January 21, 2019. We have reached a compromise this year, but next year we will be better prepared to fight for the rights of the workers employed in the sugarcane farms.”

“On October 9, there was an informal meeting between the factory owners, contractors and the representatives of the Majdur Adhikar Manch, where they come to an informal agreement where the workers have been verbally promised to be paid a higher daily wage than what they have been getting till date,” informed Denis Macwan of Surat Committee.

He further said, “There was immense pressure from Ishwarsinh Patel, Chairman, Gujarat State Federation of co-op. Sugar Factories Ltd to end the strike. Also, the workers were supposed to return their advance, which could be cleared only after they harvested the sugarcane crop. So, the contractors compromised for a raised daily wage of Rs 300 per day.”

Macwan added, “We want the daily wage to be fixed following the minimum wage draft notification which was passed on January 21, 2019. We have reached a compromise this year, but next year we will be better prepared to fight for the rights of the workers employed in the sugarcane farms.”

Courtesy: enewsroom.in
 

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