Report by Badal Tah; Rayagada: On the occasion of observing the National Labour Day on last Sunday at Krushna Chandra Nagara Bhawan Town Hall Rayagada in the presence of thousands of workers belonging to agricultural and construction sectors, district units of All India Ladies Anganwadi Workers’ Association, Odisha ASHA Karmi Sangha, Swabalambi Karigar sangha, Pachika Sangha, Utkal Alumina Mazdoor Union, IMFA Contract Labour Union, Construction Workers Union, Agricultural Workers Union, Vendors Union, etc , Sri Jogeswar Dash, District President of Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangha(BMS) presided over the function and called on all organized and un-organised labourers of the district to unite to resist the injustices meted out them and exploitation by the employers in a peaceful and non-violent way. He negated the violent class struggle in the Indian context and reminded the august gathering about the mammoth membership size of BMS which ran to more than ten millions. BMS, as the largest workers union in Asian region, did begin from scratch and continued snowballing whereas its counterparts got fragmented over a period of time. This was possible due to the values it professed and stood by them.
Inaugurating the function as well as Viswakarma Jayanti celebration as Chief Guest, Sri Badal kumar Tah, a senior scribe and social worker in the region expressed concerns over the plights of both organized and unorganized workers. He cited the examples of ASHAs, the health functionaries of the health delivery system at the lowest rung, who accompanied the pregnant mothers to the Primary Health Centres and were compensated meagerly by the state for their risky and primary service. They are paid pittance. Though the ICDS has started since year 1975, the Anganwadi Workers and the helpers, in spite of several tasks assigned to them and no conducive working conditions, are still not recognised as government employee and paid not even minimum wages. According to recent CAG reports in Odisha, around 50% of Anganwadi Centres(AWC) do not have their own buildings, most of the buildings are in dilapidated condition, 76% of AWCs do not have latrines. The state, which is professing for minimum quality standards through national Early Childhood Care & Education(ECCE) policy, is the perpetrator of its own policy like not submitting to the demand of minimum wage to these workers engaged in pre-primary education, which is the foundation of education system of the country.
“The percentage of unorganized workers in the country is around 95%. We have several schemes for construction workers after getting registered with the department like children’s education, marriage, insurance, medical benefit, etc. This awareness should be spread among the rural mass where major chunk of unorganized workers reside”, said Sri Chhotarai Tudu, Asstt Labour Officer, Rayagada.
Smt Bidulata Huika, Ombudsman, MGNREGA of Rayagada district, who joined as Guest of Honour, elaborated on different facets of exploitation of labourers working under MGNREGA. “If both unorganized and organized workers will both unite and fight for their right and complement each other’s struggle, then there will be sea change in the lives of both. While year after year Govt is increasing salaries of their employees and peoples’ representatives like MPs and MLAs, treating AWWs, ASHAs, Helpers, who are demanding minimum wages, as bonded labourers is a serious concern”, said Huika.
Sri Narasingha Nath Padhi, a senior journalist of the district and Sri Basudev Patra, President of BMS’s District Retired Govt Employees Association, Mrs.Jayanti Padmalaya Sahu also spoke on the occasion. Sri Khageswar Singh, Sri Satya narayan sahu, Sri K K Jena, Sri Deepak Kumar Prusty, Sri Ananda Raulo and Sri Pratap Puala assisted in organizing the event in a successful manner. Smt Usha Rani Dash, District Secretary of BMS extended vote of thanks.