72-Hour Strike in Singareni Coal Mines-1993

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Singareni Karmika Samakhya (SIKASA) led a successful 72 hour strike in Singareni Coal Mines on 11, 12, 13 October 1993 demanding immediate appointment of 5th wage Board. Earlier in 1989 also SIKASA led a 40 days historic strike for the implementation of the 4th wage Board accord. Since the government on one hand and the so-called recognized trade unions on the other are dilly dallying and hoodwinking the coal mine workers, SIKASA gave a call to strike work for three days demanding the immediate launching of the 5th wage board. Some 11 trade unions including the ATTUC, INTUC, CITU, APCMS, BMS, HMS etc., opposed the strike call and declared that they are not taking part in the strike.

The government and the entire police machinery took it as a challenge and did everything possible to foil the strike move at any cost. Heavy bundobust arrangements were made and large number of state special armed police force and CISF, CRPF, BSF troops also were deployed to disrupt the strike. Even from 9th onwards Singareni miners area wore the look of a battlefield. A very tense atmosphere was created seeking to create terror and panicky among the coalmines.

The police conducted raids on worker’s bastis and arrested several activists to disrupt strike propaganda. Police pickets carried out open propaganda threatening workers of dire consequences and even encounter deaths if they ever participated in the strike called by SIKASA. They tried every means to confuse the workers by spreading all sots of rumors. They said the strike would be a flop since several leaders and activists of SIKASA died in police ‘encounters’ in the last few years and many militants in the coal belt area already surrendered to the police.

Despite all these hectic efforts and malicious propaganda the government and the police utterly failed to contain the strike. Also the establishment trade unions could not foil the strike however much they wished. Their treacherous games were fully exposed among the workers. Ever since SIKASA began organizing the coal workers in early 80s, the national level recognized trade unions became back numbers. The workers thoroughly disgusted with the revisionist methods of those organizations and with the behind-the-scenes compromises of their leaders who became hand in glove with the management.

They were attracted by SIKASA’s struggle oriented programme and activity and were well convince that SIKASA is the real workers union which fights for workers interests and carries the revolutionary struggle depending practical mass participation of workers. In 1981, the workers waged a successful strike for 56 days continuously in Mandamarri, Srirampur and Godavarikhani divisions under the leadership of SIKASA against the “cut of eight musters system” and got it scraped. Rattled by the growing militancy of the workers, the Singareni management introduced that horrible system of cutting eight musters for every one day of strike, i.e., snatching away one week’s intensive as punishment for one day strike. While all the so-called recognized unions kept mum about this obnoxious practice, it is the SIKASA which led the historic 56 day strike and forced the management to scrap it Of the workers dragged into the mire of economism over long years, this was a resounding political victory in so-far it asserted their fundamental right of withholding their intensive forcing the settlement of their just demands.

So also in 1989 SIKASA led a marathon strike for 40 days, in which more than 70 thousand workers of Godavarikhani, Ramakrishnapur, Bellampalli and other divisions participated and brought the management to its knees. The “talks” for implementation of the 4th wage board agreement were held for 19 times during 1987 and 88 but never produced any results. The established unions were all part of that game. The 40 days strike of 1989 clinched the issue successfully. Similarly under the leadership of SIKASA the coal miners successfully fought many heroic battles and achieved several demands including their housing, educational facilities for children and amenities and safety precautions in the work place etc., and also so many political issues.

So from practical experience the workers know very well who actually represent their real interests. Also they realized that without bitter and uncompromising struggle they couldn’t safeguard their earlier achievements and obtain the 5th wage board for enhancement of wages to keep abreast of the spiraling inflation and high cost of living. That is why however much they tried the government, the police and the TUs failed in dissuading the workers from participation in the 72-hour strike. As a result of the 3 day strike, in Adilabad division alone where 44 thousand workers took part in the strike, the loss of production was to a tune of about 25 thousand tonnes of coal i.e., in terms of money an estimated loss of about five crore rupees. During the strike, not only the mines, but also even the office of the General Manager was completely deserted. Even when the police have driven some coal cutters and other workers to the pits by force, the mining, establishment and other trades men were not there to allot them work, and so they had to go back.

Thus all trades and grades of workers and those employed in key sectors actively participated and made the 3-day strike a big success. More than anything, this successful battle proved beyond doubt that the AP government’s ban on SIKASA along with several revolutionary organizations and the People’s War Party two years ago could not kill the revolutionary spirit of the coal workers and in the least could not deflect and wean them away from the path of revolutionary struggles. The Singareni coal mine workers closely allied with the struggling peasantry of Telengana are firmly wedded to the path of Peoples War for achieving New Democracy and the state’s coercion or craftiness can never wean them away from that revolutionary path.

Vanguard Magazine October-December 1993

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