Nationalist RSS - Bhagwa flagSaffron trade union snubs RSS, to join protest against govt

NEW DELHI: Sangh Parivar-affiliate Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh has turned down RSS’ persuasion and decided to join other trade unions to announce a protest against the Modi government’s economic policies on May 26 when it completes its first year in office.

Sources said BMS conveyed to RSS its decision to join other central trade unions to announce the plan to hold a countrywide strike against Modi government’s “anti-labour” policies, FDI and other related decisions.

BMS chief B N Rai told TOI that the union will not step down from its decision for “joint action with CPM-affiliated CITU, CPI- aligned AITUC and INTUC which is linked to Congress among others.

Rai confirmed that Sangh wanted BMS to disengage itself from the planned protest because it felt that the timing of the strike call to coincide with anniversary celebrations would embarrass the government and BJP. “The Sangh is trying to keep up its efforts as head of the ‘parivar’ (family) to ensure there is no confrontation within the family, and even we want it that way. But there are issues of idelology, and we cannot go against the labour laws and the interest of workers,” Rai said over phone from Kolkata.

Last week, the BJP leadership deployed three members of Modi government – labour minister Bandaru Dattatreya, coal and power minister Piyush Goyal and petroleum minister Dharmendra Pradhan– to talk the trade union leaders out of their strike plan. But little came out of that meeting as Rai and others present at the meeting told the three ministers that government should be first talking about the charter of demands that had been submitted a year ago. “We directly asked about what the government was doing about the charter of demands,” said Rai, adding, that he reminded them that “the government had not even set up a negotiating team with the workers unions, when the charter of demands had been handed over a year ago on June 24, 2014.”

BMS is the largest among central trade unions: a big achievement considering that it is part of the right-leaning Sangh Parivar in a field which was dominated by Left for long. Under its legendary leader, Dattopant Thengdi, it became an influential factor within Sangh Parivar and was locked in a confrontation with the Vajpayee government over issues such as disinvestment and strategic sale of loss-making PSUs

In the May 15 meeting, government was told that the trade unions will “not go back on their demands.” The demands had to do with “strict implementation of labour laws and the government changing it”. It also included “contract labour issue” which has not been resolved. In fact, “we pointed out that even at the ministries there were contractual workers and they continue to be there,” Rai told TOI.

“The ball is in their court,” Rai said that the ministers were told at the May 15 meeting.

Asked what the ministers had to say to that, Rai said, “the pet reply was we will talk to the Prime Minister.”

Rai said that the ministers, new to the subject, seemed to know little on the issues taken up in the charter of demands and were told that they should “first study it and then get back to us.”

When asked what the way out of this confrontation was, Rai said, “without any honourable and amicable settlement there is no change in our stand and no possibility of going back on protest strike.”