Following in the footsteps of the PIA and KESC employees, young doctors in the Punjab have been protesting for pay raise and other privileges for over a month now. Around dozen patients have lost their lives during the strike and the issue is aggravating day by day. The Punjab government has accepted a major chunk of the doctors’ demands but the protests are still going on. The winds of the strike are also blowing in Karachi. The young doctors of the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre (JPMC) have formed an association to demand a raise in their salaries and other benefits. A token strike of the young doctors of JPMC and the National Institute of Child Health (NICH), which was observed at the OPDs from 11:00am to 12:00 entered the fifth day on April 9.
Small traders of Karachi are also observing strikes these days against the growing threats of extortion mafia. On Friday (April 8) the traders had a successful strike. From the electronics market in Saddar to the Liaquatabad Market all shops remained closed. Even the owners of small Paan and flower shops decided to keep their places of business closed to express their solidarity with the traders. Restaurants and Dhabas also decided to keep their shutters down.
In the days to come isolated protests would fast catch up in the education sector also. The government is hell-bent on devolving the Higher Education Commission (HEC), a move termed as “monumental disaster” by the former chairman of the commission Prof Dr Attaur Rahman. Despite claims and counter-claims about how the HEC has performed, there is no doubting the fact that it has indeed brought about a positive change in higher education.
The only justification for devolving an autonomous body is that of the verification of the degrees of parliamentarians by the HEC. The government cannot afford to have more of its parliamentarians thrown out for holding fake degrees. After all “a degree is a degree whether it is authentic or fake.” In order to save face, it’s better to just nip the HEC in bud before it could make the government lose what little dignity it has and save its face.
The government, dancing to the tunes of the IMF, has imposed 15 per cent surcharge on different commodities through an ordinance, making the life of the poor people miserable. However, corporate sectors including insurance and oil companies and banks were exempted from this surcharge that is an injustice to the people. The hike in the POL prices is further going to hit them well below the belt.
The POL prices are raised just to increase indirect taxes in order to improve revenue generation. The justification is as stupid as the decision itself. The only way to improve revenue generation is to broaden the tax net by catching the big fish. In other countries, the rich pay the taxes so that their government can look after the poor, but in Pakistan, on the contrary, it is the poor that are squeezed to finance the luxuries of the rich.
All these measure of the government are borne by the salaried class. Gone are the days when the spiral of silence theory was effective. There is a new awakening in the masses and they are fighting for their rights. These workers are the key in bringing about a change in the status quo. The most effective form of action is direct action at the point of production. The best-known form of direct action while still on the job is by deliberately reducing the boss' profits while continuing to collect wages. In this way the workers can cripple the boss without giving some scab the opportunity to take over the job as substitute.
The slowdown has a long and honorable history. In 1899, the organized dock workers of Glasgow, Scotland, demanded a 10% increase in wages, but the demand met with refusal by the bosses. As a result the workers went on strike. Scabs from among the agricultural workers were brought in. Dockers had to acknowledge defeat and return to work under the old wages. However, the Dockers were told by their leaders to work in the same sloppy manner as the scabs since “the employers have declared themselves enchanted with the work of these fellows”. This order was obeyed to the letter. After a few days, the employers begged them to work as before and even gave then the 10% raise.
At the turn of the century, a gang of section men working on a railroad in Indiana were notified of a cut in their wages. The workers immediately took their shovels to the blacksmith shop and cut two inches from the scoops. Returning to work they told the boss, "Short pay, short shovels."
It is now up to the masses to rise up against the raging inflation in the country. The present government, whose founding slogan was “Roti, Kapra aur Makkan”, is hell-bent on depriving the poor masses of these basic facilities. The majority of the poor, who subsist on less than $1 a day and live in squalor with no hope of their fate changing, suffer daily from the frustrations and indignity. Their concern lies in finding the means to provide, if not two at least one meal for their children.
The Zardari government is abusing its powers and a general strike by the masses is an effective, non-violent way of forcing these people in power to rethink their position. The masses should rise against the rulers following the path of Mir Jafer and Mir Sadiq to safeguard the country's independence and solidarity.