Monday, August 12, 2019

Life (?) in a Jute Mill - Kankinara and more questions

West Bengal, even a few years back used to declare itself with proud to be a Marxist exception. There was a God that people used to worship, yes, Karl Marx. Inspired by the Marx's brilliant explanation of history as a class struggle and that in a capitalist society there were supposed to be workers movement against the owners of the means of production, West Bengal has seen no shortage of trade unions. The workers supposedly push towards a better deal for their interests. The average person in Post-Left Bengal would almost invariably say (if s/he is a TMC supporter, then more vehemently) that trade-union militancy is one of the reasons that the state has experienced relatively quick migration of industries from the state to elsewhere. The assumption is posed in such a way that the state seems to be an isolated ideal self sufficient village which does not have impact of the national or global waves! While reverse is the true, Kaleidoscope's brief exposure to the Haldia industrial city created an image inside of his head that workers during the Left period could consolidate their demands around the CITU banner to push for their demands against the top-down pressure of profit maximisation through "dead labour"!

He was shocked for the first time when his team went to study the riot in Hajinagar. Hajinagar has Hukum Chand Jute mill where workers from different states have been coming for decades. He wondered how could a state run by Karl's followers failed to transcend beyond the primordial identity issues while it ruled for three and a half decades. If West Bengal being the state with an experience of longest communist rule of the world could not transcend such issues then can we really see any hope for the idea of equality and prioritising workers rights - of so called base of Marx's Base-Superstructure structural model of explanation.

The question remained unresolved as he kept finding riot like conflict increasingly becoming the dominant narrative to his state. His Kankinara visit after the riots taking more than 7 lives was an eye-opener.

Below are just two images of the medieval like quality of life of the Jute mill workers which perhaps has not improved even an inch after so many years of India's independence and three and half decades of Left rule.

Yes, the top photograph is that of a community toilet where workers are supposed to defecate without any cover, seeing the process of their fellow workers. Watching the excreta floating on a large tank, which overflows to their tiny little rooms during the monsoon.

The photo bellow represents their everyday bathing practices. Kaleidoscope remembers similar scene in his experience of studying Chowdwar Jail, Orissa. Inmates were supposed to take bath in similar fashion.

Kaleidoscope learned the fight between the fellow workers and their families on the issues of portable water, access to whatever little space they have.

Yet, instead of demanding for the Base they are fighting for the supposedly religious superstructure! 

It doesn't look like the riot was a completely manufactured game executed from the outside, neither did it happen from within the inside! Puzzle!!

AAMRA ek Sachetan Prayas Forum and Kaleido's friends in AAMRA

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