The 3rd all India conference of the All India Municipal and Sanitation Workers was held on 3–4 February 2024 in Bengaluru. As part of the conference, a cultural session was organised, which was attended by hundreds of sanitation workers from Bangalore. 'Porakeya Haadu' (Song of the Broom), a theatrical performance on the lives of sanitation workers was staged, followed by a musical performance by Pragati Kala Tanda. Com Maniyamma and Com Suresh, safaikaramchis working in the city of Bengaluru, and leaders in the BBMP Powrakarmikara Sangha were the main protaganists in the play.
Comrade Rajiv Dimri, All India Central Council of Trade Unions (AICCTU) delivered the inaugural address and insisted that municipal and sanitation workers should defeat the BJP in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections. The RSS-BJP dream of Hindu Rashtra is an attack on workers and Dalits. It is aiming to replace the constitution with the Manu Smriti of barbarian era. Modi is washing the feet of sanitation workers only to use it for publicity blitzkrieg. The government has not made any efforts to improve the living and working conditions of sanitation workers while trumpeting about Swachch Bharat. The Swachh Bharat Abhiyan has only perpetuated caste discrimination and manual scavenging. We must defeat the BJP in 2024, he added. He also called upon workers to make the Industrial strike and Rural Bandh on February 16, called by all Central Trade Unions and the Samyukta Kisan Morcha, a grand success. He also emphasised the need for municipal workers to take an active part to fight against the anti-worker policies of the Union Government.
The report was presented by the General Secretary of the federation Comrade Shyamlal Prasad and delegates actively and enthusiastically joined the deliberations. The conference was conducted by a presidium elected by the house consisting of comrades Uday Bhat, Chandrasekhar Kumar, Santosh Kumar, Sobha, Balasubramanian, Mahendra Parida, Srinivas Rao, Nirmala, Sucheta and Mahesh Kumar Singh. The deliberations were translated into multiple languages from the stage.
The conference resolved to change the name of the federation to “All India Municipal and Sanitation Workers Federation (AIMSWF) in order to synchronise it with the expanding practice among sanitation workers that extends beyond municipalities too. The conference also resolved to launch an all India campaign against the BJP which is deceiving municipal and sanitation workers with its rhetoric and lies. The campaign is expected to begin on 15th March or so which will be subsequently decided by the newly elected committee soon.
The Conference also unanimously elected a 39-member National Executive Committee which, in turn, elected 18-member committee of Office Bearers. Comrade Uday Bhat was elected as the President, Comrade Nirmala as the Working President and Comrade Mahindra Parida as the General Secretary. Comrade Shyamlal Prasad, the founding General Secretary of the federation paved the way for the election of new faces into the committee and its leadership. Comrade Shyamlalji was directly leading the federation, since its inception, to spread its wings all over the country, until the age of 91 and will continue to inspire and guide the organisation as the Vice President.
Comrade Shankar, all India President of AICCTU, in his concluding address to the conference said, “Defeat Modi! Save Workers!” shall be the slogan of an all-India campaign from March onwards till the parliamentary elections.
Com. Shankar said: “We keep saying that Modi should be defeated. Because if Modi comes back to power, there is no question of regularisation which is one of the most important demands of sanitation workers today. If sanitation workers should get minimum wages, Modi should be defeated in 2024 elections because the Labour Codes say that minimum wage is not mandatory and only floor wages to the tune of Rs 4500, as on date, is sufficient for workers. Hence, Modi should be stopped at any cost.
We talk about dignity. But Modi is dreaming of Manu Smriti in place of the constitution written by Dr Ambedkar. The fight for the dignity of sanitation workers includes a sustained campaign against Manu Smriti which is nothing but a script for slavery of the working class, particularly the sanitation workers who are the most downtrodden in the society. We should expose Manu Smriti and carry the message among the municipal and sanitation workers.
We always talk about permanency and wages. But, that’s not enough. We should also talk about health, education of children and housing. The hazardous sanitation work should be replaced by machines and the children of sanitation workers should not be a sanitation worker anymore. But, Modi says that workers should only engage in the occupation of their parents and the family. Vishwakarma Yojana is nothing but a conspiracy to maintain caste-based occupation and the caste hierarchy which should be opposed tooth and nail.
Comrade Shankar also gave a call to take up and achieve a target of one lakh membership before the AICCTU all India conference at the end of 2024. He also called upon workers to March to Parliament to assert the demands of municipal and sanitation workers at an appropriate time.
The federation is undergoing a transition. It is very much crucial to develop municipal and sanitation workers as the vanguard of the society.
AIMWF President Comrade Uday Bhat said, “It is only due to the working-class movement that the Modi Government has not been able to implement the anti-labour codes. The workers must unitedly fight against the BJP and RSS to safeguard the lives and livelihoods of sanitation and municipal workers. The dignity in the life of sanitation workers is not a charity to be awarded by someone but a right of all sanitation and other segments of the working class as a whole. The newly elected office bearers Comrade Nirmala, the Working President and comrade Mahendra Parida, the General Secretary reaffirmed their commitment towards fulfilling the responsibilities assigned by the conference.
Comrade Clifton, all India secretary of AICCTU, proposed a definition of sanitation workers to cover all sections of workers who are related to solid waste management and also came down heavily on the practice of outsourcing and against urban governance being handed over to the undemocratic structure of companies and CEOs.
Comrade Maitreyi Krishnan honoured the volunteers who tirelessly worked for the success of the conference. The conference ended with a positive note of marching ahead steadfastly to implement the resolutions of the conference.