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The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) affiliated Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS) on Friday announced a "nationwide agitation" against the “anti-labour policies” of the Narendra Modi government. The announcement should be seen in the context of the BMS’s fear of losing support base to other unions, which have also planned sustained anti-government protests in the weeks to come. It is also part of the union’s muscle flexing in the run-up to the Indian Labour Conference, which is being held after a gap of three years. The conference will be held in New Delhi on February 27 and 28 and Prime Minister Narendra Modi will inaugurate it. At the meeting of its top decision making the body in Gujarat on Thursday, the BMS decided it will boycott the conference if its demands were not met by February 25. The BMS has asked all its affiliated units to observe February 20 as “black day” and hold protest demonstrations.
Its cadre has been asked to wear black badges and hold gate meetings. The previous protest of the BMS was against the Union Budget 2018-19. It had asked its cadres to hold protests on February 2 against announcements in the Budget. However, there was little evidence of the protests on the ground.On Friday, the BMS national executive committee “strongly condemned” the Modi government for “not keeping any of its promises made to the BMS delegation on November 17, 2017 after the historical Delhi rally.” The BMS rally had days after the three-day‘ sit-in’ of the other 11 central trade unions in the second week of November against the Modi government’s economic policies. The BMS said its protest is against “the negligent attitude of Central Government towards labour problems.” It said Indian workers belonging to different central trade unions have put forth burning issues of labour before the government. “But the Union Budget 2018 was totally silent about any of the issues raised by the unions,” the BMS said in a statement. The BMS has directed all its districts, states and industrial federations to “hold huge demonstrations at district headquarters, state capitals, and industrial estates on February 26 and 27.” It will hold a demonstration outside the labour conference venue on February 26 to “mount pressure on the Centre to resolve labour issues.” The major demands of the BMS are - increasing honorarium to Aanganwadi workers and also bringing them under social security coverage; increasing of pension, special funds to sick public sector units for their revival, increase income tax exemptions to Rs 500,000, withdrawing anti-labour provisions being pushed under the garb of labour reforms and equal pay equal work. The BMS said that the inter-ministerial committee headed by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had promised that the government will fulfil many of the demands raised by the BMS and other central trade unions. “But nothing has been mentioned in the Budget 2018 -19. The BMS demands the Centre to review the budget immediately and to take steps to redress the grievances,” it said. The BMS said it will rethink its participation in the labour conference if the Modi government failed to take any steps before February 25. It remains to be seen if the Centre takes steps to assuage the BMS before the conference.