‘Millions’ strike against In­dian govt poli­cies

Muscat Daily - - WORLD -

New Delhi, In­dia - Millions went on strike through­out In­dia on Wednesday, unions said, as work­ers an­gry at the gov­ern­ment’s labour poli­cies brought travel chaos across the coun­try.

The wide­spread ac­tion was in op­po­si­tion to what unions called the ‘anti-worker and anti-peo­ple poli­cies’ of rightwing Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi.

They high­lighted the re­cent pri­vati­sa­tion of pub­lic firms and nat­u­ral re­sources and de­manded a rise in the min­i­mum wage and pen­sions.

Farm­ers and stu­dents joined some of the protests called by ten trade unions who claim 250mn mem­bers be­tween them.

Bus and train ser­vices and state-owned banks bore the brunt of the na­tional strike ac­tion that was staged in de­fi­ance of gov­ern­ment warn­ings of ‘con­se­quences’ for any­one who took part.

Pro­test­ers blocked roads and rail­way tracks, while those at ral­lies also chanted slo­gans against the gov­ern­ment’s new na­tion­al­ity law that op­po­nents say is anti-Mus­lim and has sparked wide­spread demon­stra­tions.

In West Bengal state, strik­ers tar­geted rail­ways and key high­ways and burned tyres on a main road in the state cap­i­tal of Kolkata. Pro­test­ers car­ried red flags at ral­lies in the city.

Po­lice said there had been some ‘clashes’ in Kolkata and other dis­tricts be­tween sup­port­ers and op­po­nents of the strike.

The eastern states of Bi­har and Odisha, Ma­ha­rash­tra in the west, Haryana in the north and Ker­ala and Kar­nataka in the south were also hit by the ac­tion.

Some work­ers at state oil and coal firms joined the strike.

The gov­ern­ment had warned strik­ers that they would face ‘con­se­quences’ in­clud­ing hav­ing wages de­ducted and other dis­ci­plinary ac­tion if they joined the protest.

But the strike added to pres­sure on the Modi gov­ern­ment al­ready hit by wide­spread protests over the na­tion­al­ity law passed on De­cem­ber 11. More than 25 peo­ple have been killed in the protests. Grow­ing un­rest in uni­ver­si­ties has added to so­cial ten­sions.

“The at­ti­tude of the gov­ern­ment is that of con­tempt to­wards labour,” said the Cen­tre of In­dian Trade Unions, one of the groups or­gan­is­ing Wednesday’s 24-hour strike.

Op­po­si­tion par­ties have backed the strik­ers. Rahul Gandhi, for­mer leader of the main op­po­si­tion Congress party said the gov­ern­ment had ‘cre­ated cat­a­strophic un­em­ploy­ment’ in a Twit­ter mes­sage prais­ing the ac­tion.

A gov­ern­ment’s move to pri­va­tise big state-run firms as it strug­gles to get out of a se­vere eco­nomic slow­down has riled the op­po­si­tion and unions.

The gov­ern­ment sta­tis­tics of­fice fore­cast on Tues­day that an­nual growth would slow to 5.0 per cent in 2020, the slow­est pace in 11 years.

Last month the In­ter­na­tional Mon­e­tary Fund said the In­dian gov­ern­ment must take steps quickly to re­verse the slow­down.

(AFP)

The Cen­tre of In­dian Trade Unions ac­tivists rally in sup­port of a na­tion­wide gen­eral strike called by trade unions, in Ben­galuru on Wednesday

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