Call to the Striking Nurses

March Forward, Sisters!
Victory Is Ours!!

Finding no solution to their most genuine demands, nurses in Delhi, ultimately, had to resort to strike. Agitation for these demands was withdrawn by the nurses in September 1997, after an agreement was reached at with the Government with the assurance that the agreement would be implemented very soon. But the Government has virtually done nothing except false promises and has at last shamelessly backtracked from the agreement.

Though in pursuance of the recommendations made by the 5th pay commission, the Government has granted substantial increase in the salaries, allowances and perks of bureaucrats, yet only nominal concessions have been made to the nurses and even these concessions are not been given full effect. After the nurses themselves saw that nothing can be achieved without building pressure upon the Government, they took to the strike on 5th of May, demanding implementation of new pay package, enhancement in allowances, time bound promotions, proper housing, filling up of vacancies, setting up of Nursing Directorate, non practicing allowance, and implementation of 1997 agreement.

On May 7, the Union Minister of State for Health, in an attempt to lure the strikers, declared that the time to invoke Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA) has not come and the Government is ready to talk to the agitating nurses. The very next day the Government invoked ESMA against peacefully agitating nurses. The Government thought that by invoking the black law, it would be able to bent the nurses down and to break their resistance. The things turned out otherwise. Unions of nurses even from other states and number of workers and democratic organisations have come out in support of strikers.

The Government is approaching the strikers cunningly with carrot and stick policy. On the one hand ESMA has been invoked against the strikers, terminations have been made and further they are being threatened with arrest; and on the other, Minister for Health, Harsh Vardhan, claims that the Government is ready to consider the demands of the strikers, provided they end the strike first. But the strikers plainly refused to be trapped by the Minister and openly claimed that the strike will be withdrawn only after the demands of the strikers are satisfied. The glorious strike by the 11,000 strong nurses continues, inciting fear in the mind of Government. Invoking of ESMA against the peaceful agitation, is only a sign of this fear. It clearly shows the extent to which this Government has hatred and malice towards the movements of working people. This Govt has every intention to crush the agitation of nurses at any cost, by intrigue or by force. It only fears that use of force against the peaceful strikers may provoke a united action by the working class in Delhi. It cannot dare to face such eventuality and this is the only thing which prevents this Government from applying force against the strike. Though it cannot use naked force to break down the strike, yet it had already done what it could have by invoking ESMA, issuing termination notices to the striking nurses, recruiting nurses on contract basis, summoning untrained and student nurses, offering bribe to strike breakers and so on.

Ultimately, neither the sticks nor the carrots could bring the desired results. All pitiful efforts have gone in vain. Failing to withstand the stiff resistance offered by the nurses, the Government had to come across the table relenting from its earlier stand that it would not negotiate unless the strike is withdrawn. The strike goes on; paralysing the work in all hospitals in Delhi, demonstrating that it is the working people and not petty Ministers who run the system and merely with a waiver of hand entire machinery can be brought to standstill by the working people.

The strike action of nurses is not an act in isolation, but is part and parcel of the movement of workers of entire capital and has much wider significance. Every strike of working people is a revolt in itself against the system of exploitation and against its representative governments which crush them. That is why our Ministers have so much fear from the strike actions of working people. It is these strikes, which make the working people and their enemies also, realize the true strength of working people.

Nurses have learnt the valuable lesson that whatever concessions the working people can get, can get only through their united and concerted efforts and only by taking to the path of struggle. Nobody is going to pay heed to their plight, unless and until the working people themselves do not rise up against the conditions of their life and once the working people would rise to change these unjust conditions, no power on this earth would be able to prevent them from achieving their common goal i.e. Liberation of the working people. The relentless attitude and determination of our sisters clearly show that they would certainly succeed in having their demands realized, by defeating our common enemy - the Government.

Be assured Sisters! You are not alone in your struggle against this Government. Strength of entire working class of capital is besides your struggle. We assure you to render every support and assistance to the struggle being waged by you and warn you against all cunning moves of the Government to break up your strike either by threats or by intrigue. Reject all conditional offers and make the Government to bow down unconditionally. Raise high the banner of uncompromising struggle on which are written the following words:

Working People of all Countries Unite!

May 13, 1998.

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