The country wide strike by over 5 lakh coal miners which began on January 5 ended on January 7 following negotiations between the government and the trade unions representing the coal miners.
The strike affected all the mines operated by Coal India Limited, in different states of the country and the Singareni Collieries. The bourgeois media carried out vicious propaganda against the coal miners and their unions, terming the strike “anti-national”. In different regions, striking coalminers faced brutal lathi charges, and trade union leaders were arrested. However, workers showed steel determination in going ahead with the strike.
The trade unions called off the strike following the government agreeing to set up a committee consisting of the trade unions, the management and the government to look into the demands of the workers.
The key demands of the workers were opposition to coal mining by private parties which was permited by the Coal Mines (Special Provision) Bill 2014 and the Ordinance issued subsequently; privatization of Coal India Limited through disinvestment, and the proposal to restructure Coal India Limited to pave the way for its complete privatization. In sum, the core issues raised by workers and their unions was opposition to privatization and de-nationalization, the course which is being vigorously pursued by the Central Government.
It must be noted that until the strike actually took place, the government refused to even discuss with the trade unions the concerns of the workers. An earlier proposed strike in November had been withdrawn, on the basis of some unions declaring that the government would not attack the workers. However, the withdrawal of that proposed strike only encouraged the government to push through the ordinances that open the way for denationalization of the Coal Sector.
The big bourgeoisie is hell bent on privatization of the coal sector, in which it sees the possibility of huge profits, both by exploiting coal reserves, as well as sitting on coal blocks and speculating on them. The Central government is committed to fulfill this demand of the bourgeoisie. Therefore, the Coal miners must not have illusions that their struggle against privatization and denationalization will be easy. On the other hand, the united struggle of lakhs of coal miners has the potential to foil the plans of the bourgeoisie. Therefore, coal miners need to prepare for bigger struggles ahead.