Anant Dalvi and Akhtar Khan
The nine-month long indefinite strike of the 70 retrenched project workers of the Tata Power Company (TPC) in Mumbai successfully ended when the management settled the workers' dues. The TPC has been forced to pay substantial compensation of Rs 2 crore to the workers and their families. In 1996, TPC retrenched its 70 project workers. Though the workers fought their case, justice was not provided. On 3 October 2003, the official union members of the factory, who had earlier supported the workers, decided to withdraw their support by signing an agreement with the management. Spurred by the betrayal, the very same day the project workers staged a demonstration at the Tata headquarters in Mumbai. Two among them - Anant Dalvi, the leader of the group, and Akhtar Khan, another active worker - shocked the headquarters when they doused themselves with kerosene and sent them to flames before the 'Bombay House'. Anant Dalvi died the same day and Akhtar Khan died eight days later in hospital. The management tried to sort things by taking into confidence the mother and wife of Anant Dalvi, who refused to give in. Indira Ganpat Dalvi, the 70-year-old mother of Anant Dalvi showed tremendous courage when she let the top-level management know that they were not beggars. "We are here to ask for our rights, not alms. My son has given up his life for all 70 workers. And if the struggle succeeds Anjali Dalvi (Anant's widow) will be the 70th person to accept the cheque from the company", she said.
With the support of Jagrut Kamgar Manch (a platform for conscious workers) and various other unions, the workers took the struggle forward more vehemently. Demonstrations were held regularly in front of the 'Mumbai House', an area under prohibitory orders. A signature campaign was another mode of protest. The protestors collected 2, 500 signatures from supporters and well-wishers at different railway stations in three days. On 18 June 2004, without an appointment, the workers and their supporters went to the Maharashtra Chief Minister's residence. Despite efforts by the police to stop them, 45 of them reached the residence though they were arrested for violating laws. They were detained and released only in the evening. On 24 June, the Chief Minister called the workers' representatives for a meeting, after which he wrote a note to the Labour Minister calling for his attention to the workers' problem and an immediate solution. The Labour Minister called for a meeting of the workers' representatives and top members of the Tata management on 30 June 2004. After an hour-long discussion, the management agreed to give the workers their dues. After negotiations, on 29 July 2004 the TPC management gave the 70 workers their dues. Other than the amount in the settlement, a special death allowance of Rs 750,000 each was given to the widows of Anant and Akhtar. As Indira Ganapat Dalvi said, Anjali Dalvi was the lust person to accept the cheque from the management.
Today thousands of workers are enslaved by the tyranny of the contract system, worldwide. Inspite of strong protest the contract labour system still prevails. Khan and Dalvi symbolized the aspirations of hundreds of workers in India and the world.
Harsh Thakor, Mumbai
Founder of Pakistan Mohammed Ali Jinnah in his speech at country's constituent assembly had assured minority Hindus in Pakistan to enjoy an exemplary living in Islamic Pakistan. But those ideals washed away with death of Jinnah where population of minority Hindus in Pakistan is regularly declining sharply to the extent that after forcible conversion of Hindu girls to Islam, now a Hindu family has been compelled to 'voluntarily' adopt Islam after realising practical realities. While there used be at least one minister from minority communities in the federal cabinet now there is none since last so many years.
Shockingly while Christian-minority which in population is just about half of Pakistan's Hindu population has two local holidays apart from two local holidays, Hindu-minority does not have even one public holiday. Significantly for Christians, Pakistan government has unusual gesture in providing both 'Christmas Day' and 'Day after Christmas' as Public Holidays and both 'Good Friday' and 'Easter Day' as Local Holidays. Pakistan government should declare some important Hindu religious days also as Public Holidays.
Providing public holidays to religious minorities is also an aspect concerning human rights especially when Hindu minorities in Pakistan are treated differently with Christian minorities in Pakistan in respect of religious holidays thereby attracting attention of United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) and other global organisations.
Madhu Agrawal, Delhi
Vol. 46, No. 18, Nov 10 - 16, 2013
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