Interview of Virendra Singh Sirohi, the Regional Secretary of Hind Mazdoor Sabha (HMS)
As a newspaper and organisation that is partisan to the workers and toilers, we have been asking the leaders of the working people as to how the toilers of India view the reforms that were started 20 years ago. Whether the working class and people have benefitted from these reforms or have suffered? In the 16-31 October issue, we had begun this series with an interview of the General Secretary of the Communist Ghadar Party of India, Comrade Lal Singh. In the November 1-15 issue, we had published the interviews with the leaders of the unions of the banking and port sectors and of the loco pilots. In the November 16-30 issue, we published interviews with Insurance, Central and Western Railway Motormen’s Association, Postal Employees and a Trade Union leader of Thane District. In the December 1-15 issue, we published the interviews of leaders of the workers in some other sectors of the economy. In the previous issue, we carried an interview with a leader of the rail transport sector. In this issue, we bring you an interview with yet another leader of railway workers.
Ghaziabad is an industrial district of Uttar Pradesh; it is located on the eastern border of Delhi. This industrial area is even older than Noida and Gurgaon. It is estimated that more than two lakh workers are employed in various industrial areas – Sahibabad, Mohan Nagar, Loni Road, G.T.Road, Meerut Road, Bulandshahr Road, Patel Nagar, Amrit Nagar, Hapur Road, Dasna, Tronika City, Jindal Nagar, employed in various small or big industries. Pitched battles have been fought by workers here in defence of their rights, and they have challenged both the capitalists and the government. According to the official statistics, 14160 small businesses and 145 big factories exist here.
In this issue, Mazdoor Ekta Lehar carries an interview of Virendra Singh Sirohi, the Regional Secretary of Hind Mazdoor Sabha. He has been associated with workers movement since 1973. He was dismissed from DCM where he was Time Officer, when he started organizing workers there.
M.E.L: What are the good produced in the industrial area of Ghaziabad?
Com.V.S.Sirohi: Cold drinks and food products, tobacco, cotton garments, woolen-silk-synthetic garments, paper and paper products, printing, rubber, plastic, petroleum, chemicals and chemical products, non-metallic minerals, metals products, basic metals products, machinery and parts, electric machinery and parts, transport machinery and parts, drugs and cosmetics, sugar, water purification, etc. are all produced in big and small plants.
MEL: Where are your unions located?
Com.V.S.Sirohi: Our unions are active in every kind of industry that I have listed above. We also have unions among brick kiln and construction workers.
MEL: Where are your unions in struggle?
Com.V.S.Sirohi: Workers are carrying on the struggle for wages, social security and for making temporary workers permanent and such like issues in Elite Nippon Ltd., Graziano Ltd. (Greater Noida), Harilal Manohar Lal Sons, Eveready Battery, Modi Paints, T.C. Health Care, L.G Electronics, Holland Tractor, Samsung Electronics, Modi Steel, Modi Textile Mills, Samtel Electronic Devices, etc.
MEL: Tell us a little about the conditions of the workers here
Com.V.S.Sirohi: The workers here are mostly from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. A majority of them are on contract. There are very few permanent workers as compared to the number of contract workers. They have not been made permanent even after working for 10 years, even though the work is of a permanent nature. There is discrimination on every count, from wages to social security, between the permanent and contract workers. Workers in many plants here are fighting for being made permanent. Wherever the workers are fighting for their rights, there their duty is for 8 hours; elsewhere, it has almost become the norm that workers work for 12 hours; they are forced to do so.
What I mean to say is that the condition of the workers in this area is similar to the conditions of workers in other industrial areas in the country. Here, there is violation of labour laws, denial of minimum wages, violation of Articles 14, 16, 19 and 20 of the Constitution and suppression even before workers organize in their unions. These are all the issues faced by the workers.
MEL: You have been working in the midst of workers steadfastly over the last four decades. How far have the Parliament, judiciary and administration been useful to them?
Com.V.S.Sirohi: Government, parliament, judiciary, administration, police and army are all part of the bourgeois system. They strengthen and extend the prevailing system, and work to create obstacles to the active movement of the working class.
MEL: How have liberalization and privatization affected the country’s economy?
Com.V.S.Sirohi: Liberalisation and privatization of the economy have benefitted the Indian and foreign capitalists very well. Capitalist-imperialist ruling classes have used this policy to sort out their mutual contradictions. This policy has enabled the capitalists to exploit markets in developing and less developed countries. Capitalists have been to make maximum profits by paying lowest possible wages to the toilers of our country. Contract system, which was illegal in the context of permanent position, which the workers have continued to oppose has been made a standard feature now to enable the capitalists to make their profits. The workers of our country are being exploited, the people are getting poorer by the day, while wealth is getting concentrated in a handful of capitalists.
MEL: What should we do against this policy?
Com.V.S.Sirohi: The working class should unite and consistently fight democratically against this policy. This administration is not going to improve without collective struggle. It is not as if workers are not fighting back, but the struggle is not strong, certainly not as strong as it should be. The bourgeois state is favouring the Indian and foreign companies. On the other hand, the subsidies being granted to peasants on fertilisers, electricity, water, etc. are being cancelled when its value is hardly anything compared with the dole outs to the capitalists.
MEL: Don’t you think that the working class must come forward and claim its stake on state power given its numerical majority and the fact that the whole society runs on its labour and intelligence?
Com. V.S.Sirohi: Presently, the state power is in the hands of the bourgeoisie. The system works in the interest of that class which holds state power. I agree with that workers and peasants should be the rulers. We have to understand the objective conditions and intensifying the working class movement through scientific analysis based on working class ideology. For this, we must go amongst the people and raise issues of unemployment, price rise, economic disparity, education policy and every aspect of our lives.
The bourgeois parties have made a fool of the people on communal, regional and religious bases. People become easy victims of the propaganda of bourgeois parties and the imperialists. We have to enable the working class imbibe the class consciousness.
MEL: What is your expectation of the new UP government?
Com. V.S.Sirohi: It will be folly to expect anything from the new government. The faces change, but the anti-worker and anti-peasant system and policies do not.