On 9 August 2021, central trade unions in India organised a nationwide protest against the anti-worker, anti-people, and anti-nation policies of the Modi government. The protest march, dubbed as ‘Save India Day’, also marked the anniversary of ‘Quit India Movement’ led by Mahatma Gandhi in 1942.
While the protest was called by trade unions, it was widely participated by various sectors, including government employees, factory workers, informal workers, and farmers. Save India Day became a platform for different sectors to amplify their demands and express their discontent with the regressive policies of the Modi government that cause and aggravate Indian peoples’ suffering.
Trade unions issued a list of 11 demands, including the repeal of the four labour codes, the three farm laws, and the Electricity Amendment Bill; ensuring minimum support price for food procurement; rollback of high prices of essential commodities; registration of all migrant and unorganised sector workers; creation of jobs; filling up of government vacancies; stopping the privatisation of public sector undertakings; and ensuring vaccines for all.
ITUC affiliates – Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC), Hind Mazoor Sabha (HMS), Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA), and Confederation of Free Trade Unions of Indua (CFTUI) – played a vital role in observing and organising Save India Day through simultaneous protests and demonstrations.
SEWA highlighted the plight of women workers in the informal sector and demanded for the recognition of their labour. Represented by street vendors, home-based workers, and domestic workers in the protests, SEWA called for the registration of women workers in the informal sector, so that they can be eligible for social security.
Meanwhile, INTUC, HMS, and CFTUI criticised the neoliberal policies of the Government of India that were instituted to support only the big corporate houses and exploit its own people. They believe that, to protect India, it is high time for trade unions to fight together and collectively oppose policies that are detrimental to the nation and its working people.
Shoya Yoshida, General Secretary of the ITUC-Asia Pacific, expressed his solidarity with the Indian workers. He said, “The unity demonstrated by trade unions and their solidarity with other movements on ‘Save India Day’ are palpable, despite the risks posed by the current pandemic. We, in ITUC-Asia Pacific, are in solidarity with the Indian workers in their fight against the draconian laws that deny them rights, protection, and dignity.”