Reports from Chhatishgarh

CPI(ML) and the Safai Kamgar Union (sanitary workers’ union, affiliated to the AICCTU) jointly held a dharna at the Commissioner’s office in Bhilai on 6th June with several demands pertaining to the livelihood and working condition of the sanitary workers working for the Bhilai Municipal Council. A memorandum was handed over to the Commissioner asking him to ensure proper wages, safe and dignified working condition such as providing raincoats and gumboots for the sanitary workers, housing, education for their children, medical facilities and weekly off on Sunday. About four hundred people attended the dharna. The workers from Durg Municipal Council, Kumhari Municipality and Bhilai Steel Plant also attended this dharna. The dharna was led and addressed by comrades Brijendra Tiwari, Shyamlal Sahu, Ashok, Rekha, Jayprakash Nayar, Adalat Ali, Manglu and Keshav among others.

Previously a rally of Durg’s rickshaw sanitary workers was held on 22 May and a memorandum with their demands was handed over to the Dy. Commissioner of Durg. The memorandum demanded the statutory minimum wage to be ensured and recorded in the muster roll. The sanitary workers went on strike on 6 June when the contractor continued to pay them the depressed wages despite Dy. Commissioner’s assurances that things would be improved. The struggle continues.

The Party State Committee is also engaged in freeing up illegally occupied agricultural land from Sona Breweries of Raipur. The land in question is situated at village Gorhi. The company had bought the 50 acres of agricultural land and started constructing there a factory for manufacturing beer. Also, it illegally occupied 10 acres of revenue land belonging to the Gram Sabha (village conference) and started constructing road connecting the factory to the main roads. The sarpanch, and other panchayat members illegally allotted land to the company. It is clearly mentioned in the Panchayat Act that the Gram Sabha needs to be taken into confidence before taking such important decisions. The situation has become quite tense in the 20 villages near Gorhi as those opposing this unconstitutional and grossly illegal act are being threatened with dire consequences by the company goons. Many people have been slapped with false cases against them by the company.

With the demand to stop construction on the said sites, a thorough investigation and stringent legal action against the company, punishable action against the Gram Panchayat officials for deliberately ignoring the Gram Sabha, and provision of full security to the villagers, more than thousand people demonstrated at the District Magistrate’s office and presented him their demands. A memorandum was also given to the Superintendent of Police. At the moment the construction activity has been stopped, as a result of the protests.

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