May Day observed in South Asia...

May First, which is widely known as May Day, or the International Labours day, was widely celebrated today across South Asia. May Day first began in Chicago, US, in the late nineteenth century, by workers of various trade unions demanding an eight hour work day. Since then this day is synonimous with working class movement across the world. In South Asia too it was widely celebrated, though in varied ways, due to the different situations prevalent in the different countries and the different political spectrums.



Sri Lanka: In Sri Lanka, political parties were holding May Day rallies on Saturday for the first time since the ending of nearly four decades of ethnic bloodshed. Nearly a dozen meetings were scheduled in the capital and suburbs. Previous May Day celebrations in Sri Lanka had been marred by attacks blamed on Tamil Tiger rebels, who were militarily crushed by security forces last year after 37 years of guerrilla war. Suspected Tamil Tiger rebels launched a suicide bomb attack in 1993 during a ruling party May Day rally and assassinated then president Ranasinghe Premadasa. President Mahinda Rajapakse said in an official statement, that the country, and it's working people overcame the major terrorist challenge that they were facing for the last three decades, and that he recognises the great role played by the working class people in the development of the country. The labour day celebrations by opposition parties were low-key, as their leaders said that the celebrations are muted this time, as they are still recovering from the massive election defeat they faced in the last presidential polls. In a development, in spirit of the May Day, the Sri Lankan Minister of Labour Relations and Productivity Promotion Gamini Lokuge announced that the minimum wages of the private sector employees that are covered by Wages Boards would receive a 20 to 45 percent salary increase and the minimum salary of the employees would be increased from Rs. 7000 to 10,000 accordingly.



Nepal: On to Nepal now, where in a completely different and critical development thousands of Maoists have gathered in Nepal capital Kathmandu to start on with their "massive and indefinite" agitation to topple the government from May Day. The Maoists, who insist the rally will be peaceful, want to lead a national unity government. Amid rising tension, the party, the largest in parliament, has threatened an indefinite strike from Sunday. Correspondents say the peace process, which ended 10 years of conflict, may be in danger of collapsing. The Maoist party, which has the largest number of seats in parliament, is demanding the ruling coalition be replaced by a new, Maoist-led administration. It said it expected half a million people to throng the city's streets. The Maoists spokespersons claimed that this will be largely a peaceful protest, even though the Government has told the Army and the Police to be ready for any eventuality, and to guard the national instalations including the major banks, railways, and other administrative offices to be safeguarded at "any cost". Unconfirmed reports says that the business and main market places are closed, following the Maoist cadres demanding donations of cash and foodgrains, as fear gripped the city and it's suburbs.



Bangladesh: Bangladesh also observed the May Day where different worker organisations are hosting various programmes marking the day including processions, discussion sessions, cultural events and film exhibitions. Roads in the capital have been decorated with placards, banners and festoons. It was a public holiday in Bangladesh. President Zillur Rahman, prime minister Sheikh Hasina and chief opposition leader Khaleda Zia gave separate addresses marking the day. Also in another long due development the garment workers of Bangladesh will receive increased wages within the next three months following a series of deadly mass protest by the garment workers, wherein they jammed the country’s main highway. With nearly One Thousand and Seven Hundred Takas, which is approximately twenty five dollars a month, Bangladesh was recognised as one of the cheapest manufacturing hubs in the world. A new wage board of union representatives, manufacturers and industry experts, has been set up to propose new basic pay levels, in view of the mounting costs of living due to inflation, for around 2.5 million garment workers of the country.



Pakistan: Pakistan government announced a new labour policy for 2010 on account of International Labour Day. Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani announced that minimum wages from Rs. four thousand six hundred per month has been increased to Rs. Six Thousand and EOB (Employees Old-age benefits) pension has been enhanced from Rs. one thousand five hundred to Rs, tweo thousand. He also said that the dreaded "Removal from Service Ordinance 2000" and "Industrial Relations Ordinance 2002" have been repealed, while union activities have been restored throughout the country. The Prime Minister said the government has formulated a new labour policy in the light of the vision of the late Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Benazir Bhutto, which will be announced soon. The new Labour Policy has been designed to meet the requirements of economy, workers and employers. He also stated that the workers are backbone of the economy, and that the government is striving to get them on their feet as the economic situation cannot improve without the whole-hearted cooperation of the work-force.