Eighteen days into their indefinite hunger strike and in the ninth month of their demonstration against their “illegal” termination from a Honda plant in Rajasthan, the health of the workers camping at Jantar Mantar took a turn for the worse Friday.
Three of the five sacked workers — Vipin, Sunil and Naresh — were admitted to Ram Manohar Lohia hospital after their blood sugar levels dropped to critically low levels over the last two days. All three are being treated at the hospital while the other two — Avinash and Ravi — continue to strike at Jantar Mantar, protesting against the Honda Motorcycle and Scooter India plant in Rajasthan.
“Trade unions in Delhi have been helping us… Two doctors from local unions have been constantly checking those on hunger strike. Their health is declining. All five workers are refusing food,” Jitesh, executive member of the union now called Honda Motorcycle and Scooter 2F Kamgar group, said, as workers concluded their series of speeches and discussions at 5 pm on Friday.
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Over 3,000 workers suspended by the Honda plant in Rajasthan’s Tapukara in mid-February this year for trying to form a union have been striking and holding marches and boycotts across the country to bring to people’s notice the injustice of their alleged illegal termination, the beatings and arrests, some under sections of attempt to murder.
At Jantar Mantar, 200-odd workers have made the pavement their home. A worn out rug beside the stage doubles up as a bed. A mosquito net is set aside for the five on hunger strike while over 10 workers had to leave the city since September 20, after contracting mosquito-borne diseases.
“Police did not allow us to cook our meals here. So we have been living on free meals from the Bangla Sahib Gurudwara nearby. Local unions and our families have been helping us with some money to help sustain the strike… and we will win this fight,” said Deepak Sahoo, a permanent employee with the plant who was fired along with hundreds of workers. Delhi Labour Minister Gopal Rai, who was approached by the workers Thursday, wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Labour Minister Bandaru Dattatreya and Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje, saying “the workers’ constitutional right to form a union” was quashed through illegal terminations, false arrests and beatings.
Rai wrote, “I request you to empathise with the workers and direct officials concerned in the state of Rajasthan to mete out justice at the earliest.”