Millions of informal workers with the support of various unions took to streets nationwide on Wednesday to protest the austerity measures of India's right-wing government.
The workers came from several national schemes such as the Anganwadi (rural childcare) workers, part of the Integrated Child Development Services Scheme, Mid-Day Meal workers, and workers who are part of the National Health Mission, National Rural Livelihoods Mission, National Child Labour Project, Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, and Small Savings Schemes.
The vast majority of these workers are considered as volunteers and are paid a mere US$15.65 (INR 1,000) as an honorarium.
"In the name of ‘honorarium’ or ‘incentive,’ they are paid a pittance as low as Rs 1000 per month for ten months a year in the case of midday meal workers. The 45th Indian Labour Conference recommended that these workers must be recognised as workers, must be paid the minimum wage and given social security benefits including pension,” a union statement read.
The Narendra Modi-led Bhartiya Janta Party, or BJP, is slashing some of the national schemes like the mid-day meal scheme, National Health Mission, and Integrated Child Development Services Scheme by introducing budget cuts, structural changes, and privatization.
Some of the demands by the workers' are a rise in the minimum wage to at least US$281.70 (INR 18,000), recognizing them as "workers" as currently a vast majority of those working in the informal sector are considered as "volunteers", end to privatization of national schemes, adequate budget allocation for the scheme workers, setting basic employees' state insurance and provident fund as part of their social security, including monthly pensions and implement the 45th International Labor Organization's recommendations.
"CPIM Extends Support to the All India Strike of Scheme Workers on January 17th and the Demands raised by the Unions!" the Communist Party of India - Marxist said in a tweet.
At least ten trade unions, Center of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), Trade Union Congress (INTUC), Hind Mazdoor Sabha (HMS), The All India United Trade Union Centre (AIUTU), Labour Progressive Federation (LPF), Trade Union Coordination Center (TUCC), Self-Employed Women's Association (SEWA), All India Central Council of Trade Unions (AICCTU), United Trade Union Congress (UTUC), are collectively organizing the strike which will be the first massive strike by workers in this year.