Rumour mongering of BJP, North Indian workers and the Tamil Nadu labour market – Com. Sathish

13 Mar 2023

In the run to the Lok Sabha elections 2024, the celebration of TamilNadu Chief Minister M.K Stalin’s birthday on March 3rd turned into a gathering of Opposition Parties from Kashmir to TamilNadu. BJP which uses the splitting up of the Opposition Parties as a primary strategy for elections had recently propagated false news on Social Media. BJP’s social media wing spread false information that Bihar workers in TN were being killed and there was an exodus of Bihar workers from TN in fear for their lives. Such news was published even in the popular Hindi newspaper ‘Dainik Bhaskar’. The official Twitter handle of BJP Bihar also posted pictures claiming that Tejashwi, the Deputy CM of Bihar and RJD leader shared the stage with TN CM M.K Stalin while Bihari workers were being killed in TN. The primary intention was to disturb the Opposition parties’ existing and possible alliances by portraying TN as unsafe for North Indian labourers. In a way, it is to portray that the regional parties of Akhilesh Yadav and Tejashvi are joining hands with DMK and its alliance in TN in spite of their hatred politics towards North Indians. This is BJP’s effort to distort any kind of union of the Opposition parties and to blame the regional parties that they are not bothered by the hatred towards their states’ workers in TN. BJP did not stop with the rumour mongering that workers of UP and Bihar are being killed in TN but went on to raise it as an issue in Bihar state assembly. BJP has spun a tale to garner votes from North India by linking the predominant sentiments existing in TN against Hindi Imposition, Brahmin-Baniya hegemony, domination of Aryan culture and the assertion of state rights to the issue of North Indian labourers. Following such allegations, the TN CM, Director General of Police Sylendra Babu and Coimbatore Collector have clarified that the situation in TN is not as being spread in the rumours and the North Indian labourers are safe. BJP tried to create fear among the labourers by spreading false news through WhatsApp forwards. TN government has set up a helpline to address and eliminate fear among the workers. BJP has used the contradictions between TN labourers and migrant labourers as a strategy to weave its narrative for the 2024 elections. The contradictions between the labourers have to be addressed in the right way to avoid any further complications and issues. War, natural calamities and poverty lead to migration of people. Migration that occurs because of poverty and the search for employment arises because of the government’s wrong economic policies. The liberalisation, globalisation and privatisation policies since the 1990s have led to a decline in agriculture and a development that is centered around cities and dependent on foreign capital. This has led to the migration of agriculture-based labourers to cities in search of jobs. This migration of people has occurred within the states, between the states and across nations. The volume of people migrating between states has exponentially increased since 2000 and state and union governments have not gathered sufficient data on migration. The report produced by the Ministry of Labour and Employment in November 2022 was based on 2011 census data. The past decade has seen a significant rise in migration and it has been predominantly from industry-deprived states to developed states. According to the 2011 census data, the majority of migration has happened towards Maharashtra, then Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. The ratio of migrant labourers to regional labourers has increased and the situation of other state labourers flooding into TN has, in fact created a sort of tension among the local people.It has become common to witness problems between migrant labourers and local people in public places, buses and railway stations. The migrant labourers have also become a target for the police and they have been filed for unresolved cases. The police is trying to criminalize the migrant labourer. Media also has played a role in setting a negative narrative on migrant labourers. In the past decade, there has been an increase in movies that have made fun of migrant workers and movies such as Dheeran and Dora have vilified migrant labours. All these have created fear among local people towards migrant labourers and have also led to the use of derogatory terms such as ‘vadakans’ and ‘panipurikaarargal’. It is against this background that BJP has started rumour-mongering and has created tension among the people. This could have also led to the harassment of Tamil people working in other states. In response to the rumours, the TN government has been claiming that the North Indian labourers are safe and TN Govt is protecting them. Are the north Indian labourers protected by the labour laws? Also, what is the effect on the labour market with the arrival of migrant labourers in TN? How are these problems going to be addressed?States have been competing among themselves to attract foreign capital. All the infrastructure developments that the state put in place such as road connectivity, sea port and airport expansion are to enable fast movement of goods to the market. State also facilitates with subsidised electricity, land leases for 99 years, creation of Special economic zones etc. As a part of such concession towards the foreign investments, states have relaxed many labour laws that safeguard interests of labour. In fact, labour laws are being thrown into the dust bins and the laws are live only in papers.The Minimum Wages Act, Equal Pay for Equal Work Act, Abolition of Contract Labor Act etc which are there to protect the welfare of the workers are not implemented. North Indian labourers are brought to the state to work for bare minimum wages for the same work similar to that of bonded labour. This makes the labourers from Tamil Nadu non-saleable of their labour as they are no longer able to compete in the labour market.To safeguard the migration workers’ rights, The Inter State Migrant Workmen (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act 1979 was created 40 years back but the state and union governments have taken no efforts to implement the act. According to this act, a contractor bringing a worker from one state to another state should obtain a license from the appropriate authority in that state and should sign a contract. The contractor should obtain license for each worker from the authorities in the home state and the immigration state. But the reality is different. During COVID outbreak, migrant workers were the first to face the wrath because of the brutal decision taken by Modi that brought the country to standstill just giving four hours of time. The scenes of migrant workers walking on the roads for thousands of kilometres with their starving families, children, pets and belongings to their home state will remain painful forever. This has been the biggest migration that occurred after 1947 partition. The scenes bear witness to the ways the BJP government handled the migrant labourers. Currently the same BJP government is claiming to be concerned about migrant labourers. 80% of jobs in Multinational corporation, construction companies, textile and all other private companies should be provided to Tamil Nadu workers and the government should enact and implement a law for the same. This is not a new demand as this has been promised by DMK in its election manifesto and remains as unfulfilled till date. This law will safeguard labour market in Tamil Nadu. Minimum Wages Act, Equal Pay for Equal Work Act, Abolition of Contract Labor Act and Inter-State Migrant Workmen Act – 1979 should be implemented to protect labour rights, protect employment rights of Tamil Nadu labourers and also avoid brutal exploitation of migrant labourers. Then only the hate-mongering forces which are trying to use the current contradictions to put forth their fake narratives could be defeated. –

Sathish kumar, Socialist Workers CentreTranslated by Yaamini


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