Racheeta Chawla

| @gothvoid15 | March 12,2019

WORKING women from all over Delhi gathered in Jantar Mantar, New Delhi to release their list of demands from political parties ahead of the 2019 general elections. Agricultural workers, angadwadi workers, health workers, domestic workers, sanitation workers and scheme workers, among several others, released the Working Women’s Manifesto during a public hearing organised by the All India Progressive Women’s’ Association (AIPWA) and the All India Central Council of Trade Unions (AICCTU) at Jantar Mantar on 7 March, 2019.

Women workers demanded accountability from the government and  condemned the jingoism deployed by them to distract attention from burning issues of the day.

Public Hearing

 

The public hearing had a distinguished panel of jurists which included Prof. Tanika Sarkar, Historian, Dr. Uma Chakrabarti, Anumeha Yadav, journalist, Bhasha Singh, Journalist, Poonam Tusamad, Secretary, Dalit Lekhak Sangh, Dr. Uma Gupta, Assistant Professor Delhi University and Democratic Teachers Initiative and Santosh Roy,  Delhi State President of the All India Central Council of Trade Unions. The hearing was conducted by Shweta Raj, Secretary of the Delhi State AICCTU.

 

Working Women’s March on the occasion of International Women’s Day | Photo Credit: Abhishek Lohia for The Leaflet

 

Urmila, a sanitation worker at the Jawaharlal Nehru University said, “as sanitation workers, we often have to work in an environment which is extremely dirty and dangerous but we are not given any safety equipment. Modi goes around claiming the achievements  in ‘Swach Bharat’ but he has no time to inquire about the plight of sanitation workers. We have to work without minimum wages and in conditions which are dangerous to our lives.”

 

 

Mala from the Domestic Workers Union in Noida spoke of the humiliation domestic workers suffer at the hands of their employers, including male security guards. “As domestic workers we are never paid a minimum wage and are continuously humiliated by the people in whose homes we work. Many residential colonies impose callous conditions on domestic workers and we are often frisked by male security guards in the residential colonies,” she said.

 

Pamphlets in Working Women’s March. | Photo Credit: Abhishek Lohia for The Leaflet

 

A group of health workers called out the government for completely failing scheme workers. They spoke of the lack of social security and minimum wage despite the long and odd hours they had to keep. “As health workers, we are often called to help at odd hours in the night, we have to be on call 24/7, but forget being paid a salary,  we are not even paid minimum wages. We have no social security,”  the General Secretary of the Delhi ASHA Karamchari Union, Rita, said. Shakuntala, an industrial worker from Wazirpur, shared her experiences about the pathetic working conditions at the Wazirpur industrial area.

 

 

Asking for reform in labour laws, the manifesto asks for an end to contractual employment and the welfare of female daily wage labourers. It calls for taking back schemes like NEEM (National Employability Enhancement Mission) & NETAPP (National Employment Through Apprenticeship Programme) and to end the demeaning practice of manual scavenging. It points to the discrimination faced by  female sanitation workers on the basis of their caste as well as  gender, along with the stigma they suffer on account of the work they do.

 

Banner at the Working Women’s March. | Photo Credit: Abhishek Lohia for The Leaflet

 

Speaking to The Leaflet, jury member Bhasha Singh expressed her distress at the fact that manual scavenging and equal wage for equal work were still issues of primary concern after more than 70 years of independence.

 

 

Historian Tanika Sarkar, also on the  jury panel, spoke of how women were  barely treated as important in working spaces, even though they were at the forefront of all struggles to improve working conditions.  Working conditions are appalling for both men and women, but women, despite compromising their health, are not paid equal to their male counterparts, Sarkar said to The Leaflet. The wages paid to women do not allow them to build a surplus for emergencies, and their families are not paid compensation after their death, she said. There are no toilets and no drinking water facilities for women workers, who apart from holding their jobs, have also to take care of their families.

 

Working women’s demand

The 12 point manifesto demands:

  • More participation of women labourers, Dalits, adivasis and other backward communities in the development of Government policies, decisions and schemes.
  • An affirmative action to stop the worrying rates of unemployment, inequality among the genders and rising inflation, especially on edibles, LPG, petrol, etc. The guaranteed financial aid to the unemployed is also being demanded.
  • Take steps to end the pay gap between male and female workers and end the favourable working conditions available only for men.
  • The eradication of discrimination between men and women at workplaces and implementation of the Vishaka Judgment (POSH Act, 2013) at the workplace.
  • A guarantee of minimum monthly wage of Rs. 26,000 and a failure to pay shall call for a criminal action on the employer.
  • Accord the status of government official to the women working in Aasha, Anganwadi, etc., and guarantee the minimum wage to them, as they are usually not paid on the pretext of them being mere “volunteers”.
  • Stop the unnecessary attacks on trade union executives and to mandate the registration of the trade unions within a period of 45 days.
  • Imprisonment of all the politicians who provide a safe custody and an enabling environment for those who lynch, accelerate communal violence and gender based violence.

 

 

Working Women’s Manifesto’s Call to all Political Parties

 

The working women manifesto expresses dissatisfaction with the current government and all  political parties for  doing nothing for the actual upliftment of women. The manifesto urges  political parties to eschew what they called “the dirty politics of communal violence, terrorism and hate speech” and to work for better workplace conditions for women that give them equal opportunities and a dignified life.

 

Watch: Purpose of Working Women’s Manifesto

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