Almond Workers’ Strike into its Fourth Day: Delhi’s Almond Processing Industry Paralysed

Abhinav Sinha,
Bigul Mazdoor Dasta

December 19, Delhi. The almond workers’ strike of Karawal Nagar continuing from December 15 intensified with the release of the three arrested leaders of the ‘Badaam Mazdoor Union’ (BMU), Ashish Kumar Singh, Kunal Jain and Prem Prakash Yadav. Earlier, almond contractors and their goons attacked on women workers, their children and Union leaders with rods, sticks and hockeys on the morning of 17th December, injuring two BMU leaders, and several workers seriously. In self-defense, workers started pelting stones at the contractors and goons due to which four henchmen of contractors were injured. Police took some people from both parties into custody and recorded their statements. But Police did not take any action on the contractors and their goons, and on the behest of the contractors lodged an F.I.R. against three BMU leaders under section 107 and section 151. The Police provided medical assistance to the injured goondas of the contractors and freed them, whereas the BMU leaders were put into the lock up of Gokalpuri Police Station without providing them any medical assistance or even first aid. Besides, this whole dispute came under the jurisdiction of Karawal Nagar Police Station, but fearing militant protest and gherao by the almond workers, the Police locked the leaders up in the Gokalpuri Police Station, while telling lies to the workers that the leaders have been taken to GTB Hospital for M.L.C. This makes it clear that the Police was acting on the behalf of the contractors. The contractors have learnt that they do not need to keep paid goons; they have the Police!

In the meanwhile, thousands of workers continued their strike in Karawal Nagar on the fourth day. Due to fourth day of the strike the whole almond processing industry of Karawal Nagar has come to a standstill. Naveen of BMU said that the Union will lodge a complaint in the office of DCP, North-East Delhi as the Karawal Nagar Police has acted in a partisaned way in favour of the contractors; and if the DCP fails to take cognizance of the whole matter and take action against the Police of Karawal Nagar and the goons of the contractors, we will be left with no other option but to move to the court. It is noteworthy that almond workers under the leadership of BMU have been demanding for their labour rights and they are also demanding the Delhi government to give a formal recognition to the almond processing industry of Delhi. Presently, all the almond godown owners are working as contractors without any licence of government recognition. Workers working in these godowns are predominantly women, however, there is no arrangement for sanitation or creche for their children. The workers have to break almonds soaken in acid with their hands, feet and teeth. They do not have any security gear or any kind of security arrangement they often succumb to diseases like tuberculosis, asthma, etc. The children of workers often catch fatal diseases. The BMU has been demanding for better work conditions for these workers. However, the contractors and owners are having their own way with application of force, which they have at their disposal in the form of the support of the Police administration and local leaders of various parties. Yogesh of BMU said that now those days are a thing of past when the workers silently endured all the excesses of the contractors and kept working like slaves. They have organized themselves into a powerful union, BMU and they would not stop on anything short of all their legal rights.

Today released leader and convener of the BMU, Ashish Kumar Singh said that the contractors are scared of the workers’ movement. By winning the Police on their sides and cowardly attacking the unarmed workers, they have proved that they can demonstrate their “courage” only in hoardes and that too on women workers and children. However, the women workers replied tit for tat and proved that they can retaliate to any such cowardly attack in the same coin. Those days are gone when the workers silently used to bear the violence and abuses of the contractors. Workers, on the strength of their unity can make any force bite the dust, including the corrupt Police administration as well as hooligans. It is not without reason that the 15 percent of workers who had not joined the strike due to the fear of contractors, have now joined the strike with full might and they have freezed the profit machinery of the owners and contractors.

Earlier, the released leaders of the Union received warm reception by thousands of workers when they reached the venue of strike in Karawal Nagar.

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