In India, millions are on strike for better wages and labor rights

Millions of workers began a two-day nationwide strike across India on Monday to express their anger at the government’s economic policies and press their demands for improved rights for industrial workers, employees and workers. farmers.

A dozen unions that have organized the strike are calling on the government to provide universal social security coverage for workers in the large unorganized sector, raise the minimum wage under a flagship job guarantee program and stop privatization of public sector banks.

The strikers are also demanding that the government end its plans to sell state assets.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has said privatizing some state-owned banks will restructure the banking sector and selling assets will help raise funds to spur economic growth.

The strike had little impact in India’s capital, New Delhi, and the financial hub of Mumbai, but daily life was affected elsewhere, including in southern Kerala, where the state government led by the opposition Communist Party of India supported the protest. In some states, protesters blocked highways and railroads, affecting public transportation.

Activists and supporters from the Left Front, Indian National Congress and various trade unions attempt to block a road in Kolkata, India today during a nationwide strike. (Bikas Das/Associated Press)

The All Indian Trade Union Congress, one of the largest unions in the country, said it expected more than 200 million formal and informal workers to join the strike, but that figure did not could be independently verified.

The Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh, a major union affiliated with the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, said it would not participate in the strike, calling it “politically motivated”.

Higher unemployment

Essential services related to banking, transport, railways and electricity are expected to be affected in several states. A number of public sector banks, including India’s biggest lender, the state-run State Bank of India, said banking services could be affected as many workers are expected to join the strike.

India’s economy has rebounded after taking a heavy hit in the first two years of the pandemic. But many jobs have disappeared, with unemployment reaching 8% in December.

Modi’s government grappled last year with huge protests by farmers demanding the repeal of new farm laws he called necessary reforms.

Protests from farmers, who feared the laws would drastically reduce their income, forced Modi into a rare retirement just before crucial elections his party eventually won.