New Delhi: May 1, which is celebrated annually in India as Labor Day, has it lost its relevance? Is it just a matter of time before India officially replaces “May 1” with “Vishwakarma Day” to honor workers’ contribution to nation building?
Such questions are now raised more and more on May 1 of each year as the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS), India’s largest union, avoided celebrating May 1 as Labor Day as a relic. of an obsolete past when the Communists dominated the union. movement in India. One of the key symbols of the BMS is the celebration of Vishwakarma as a national labor day to send a message through that the left has lost its most traditional stronghold to the nationalists.
How BMS has moved to the left
BMS was founded on July 23, 1955 – anniversary of the birth of Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak – by a Pracharak from Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), Dattopant Thengadi. Thengadi is revered within the Sangh Parivar as one of the key ideologues. He is also credited with setting up organizations such as Bharatiya Kisan Sangh, the largest peasant organization in the country today, and Swadeshi Jagaran Manch, an organization that has fought for “ Atmanirbhar Bharat ” since the early 1990s.
When the BMS was formed, the labor movement in India was dominated by the left – and the unions backed by Congress. BMS has taken a different approach. Fleeing from the Marxist approach which believed in the confrontation between workers and owners, it adopted a consensual approach based on “nationalism”.
Thengadi played a key role in building the organization, brick by brick, over the next several decades. Initially, the organization kept the focus on the unorganized sector to create a foothold. According to official BMS documents, “Shri Thengadiji and the local efforts of his colleagues at the time resulted in the creation of a union here, and a union there. Of course, it seemed insignificant in the vast web of the union field like tiny dots on a large map. Most of these unions belonged to the unorganized sector. With increasing experience, slowly BMS unions have sprung up in major industries. In a few states, state committees have been formed. “
The first decisive movement took place in 1967 when, 12 years after its formation, the first Indian conference of the BMS was held in Delhi, during which the initial national executive was elected. At that time, the BMS had 541 affiliated unions and its total membership stood at 2.46,000. Thengadi was elected general secretary and Ram Naresh was its first president.
In the post-1967 phase, the BMS expanded rapidly and within 15 years it became the second largest union in the country. “In 1984, the central government, after verifying the membership of all major central labor organizations, declared BMS as the second central trade union organization with 12.11,355 members,” BMS official records indicate.
The next important moment came when in 1996 the Ministry of Labor declared it as the largest union in the country with 31,17,324 members. The date for taking into account the above verification was December 31, 1989. In the subsequent verification carried out by the Government of India for the year 2002, BMS maintained its position as the largest trade union organization in the country.
According to BMS officials, “Of the 44 industries classified by the Indian government’s Ministry of Labor for membership verification purposes, BMS has affiliated unions in all industries. BMS has nearly one crore in all states, comprising over 5,000 affiliated unions. “
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According to BMS, “… (it) is a non-partisan central labor organization focused on productivity. He… firmly defends the principle of the public responsibility of each industry and, therefore, the enunciation of public discipline. He tries to make consumers the third and most important part of industrial relations. For the promotion and achievement of its aims and objects, BMS applies all legitimate means compatible with the spirit of nationalism and patriotism. “
Today, BMS is significantly represented in most of the bipartite / tripartite labor and industry committees / councils formed by the central government, including the Indian Conference of Labor (CIT), the Standing Committee on Labor, the Central Council for Workers’ Education, ESI, EPF, National Productivity Council, Security Council, negotiating committees of public sector companies such as BHEL, NTPC, NHPC, BEL, coal, industrial committees of the jute, textiles, engineering, chemical fertilizers, sugar, electricity, transportation and the consultative mechanism of government employees and various other committees / boards. BMS also heads the delegation of Indian labor to the conferences of the International Labor Organization (ILO).
Why Vishwakarma Jayanti, not May 1st
Writing for the English weekly newspaper supported by RSS OrganizerBMS CK President Saji Narayan explained in an article published in 2017 and republished in 2019, “Vishwakarma symbolizes the paradigm shift in the current thought process. Work is considered a Yajna. Indian industrial relations are traditionally based on family relations. BMS accepted the family as a model of professional relations and put forward the great concept of “industrial family”. This contrasts with the master-servant relationship of the West or the concept of the class enemy of the Communists. We imbibed the slogans “Tyag-Tapasya-Balidan”, “Work is worship”, “Nationalize work”, etc. from the lives of great personalities like Vishwakarma.
To ensure uniformity, Vishwakarma Jayanti is celebrated on September 17th every year, as in many places it is celebrated both on Bhadrapada Shukla Panchami and on Magha Shukla Thrayodasi. May 1, imported from the west, fails to positively motivate workers where Vishwakarma Jayanti can. “
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BMS on measures for workers during Covid-19
The BMS fought for the livelihoods of workers during the time of the coronavirus pandemic. In his latest letter, BMS General Secretary Binoy Kumar Sinha wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on April 17 urging him to “take a swift appeal to stop (reverse) migration and provide work for these migrants in their places of stay ”.
He added: “With One Nation One Ration Card, it will not be difficult for the government to identify these workers and help them in a crisis situation.”
The WSB urged Prime Minister Modi “to kindly enter into dialogue with state governments and lead them to ensure that (reverse) migration is interrupted for the maintenance of workers’ faith, the life of industries and the nation’s growth according to plan.
The author is Research Director at the Delhi-based Vichar Vinimay Kendra Think Tank. He is the author of two books on RSS. The opinions expressed are personal.
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