COSATU in solidarity with protesting farmworkers against repressive farm laws – India

The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) stands in support of millions of farmworkers, farmers, along with their allies including students, feminist movements and civil society groups, in India who for more than 60 days now have staged multiple blockades, sit-ins, the largest tractor march in world history, demanding to have their grievances attended to. Some of the key demands contained in the 12-point charter put forward by the protestors include withdrawal of a series of laws recently passed by the Modi government repealing key labour and farm price protections, a rollback in the recent disinvestment policies in major government-owned enterprises, implementation of existing welfare schemes for rural workers, and expanding welfare policies to aid the masses affected by the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic.

 The strikes come at a time when the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic has pushed India into a veritable recession, exacerbating existing inequalities and deprivation. India currently has the second-highest coronavirus infection rates globally, with over 10,6 million people infected. This has devastated the economy and generated widespread unemployment.Concerned by  the government’s “mishandling of Covid-19”, protestors are also calling for safer working conditions to limit the virus’s spread.

 Amidst such an all-round crisis, the right-wing government led by the Bharatiya Janata Party has implemented new amendments to labour codes and introduced farm bills that have reversed major historical signs of progress made in workers’ rights and farm protections.

 COSATU condemns the introduction of these regressive farm regulations representing a corporate takeover of farming in India. We further take this opportunity to wage our full support and stand in solidarity with the Punjabi farmers in India protesting for their livelihoods and protection from misguided, manipulative government regulations. The farmers and farm workers must protest peacefully against their government without fear of violence.

 COSATU calls on all workers and progressive movements worldwide to defend India’s striking workers. This mass movement of workers from the country’s farming industries demonstrates the collective power of working people, and the ongoing struggle for workers’ and farmers’ rights warrants recognition and solidarity globally.

Issued by COSATU

Sonia Mabunda-Kaziboni

International Secretary

COSATU Head Office

Tel:  011 339 4911 | 072 535 1577