National Strike in India, Demand Labor Rights, Better Wages

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

The country’s more than ten unions that organized the strike want the government to provide universal social security protection for workers in the large, unorganized sector, increase the minimum wage under the job security program, and stop the privatization of public sector banks.

The strike participants also demanded that the government stop its plan to cash in on state assets.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government said the privatization of several state-owned banks would revolutionize the banking industry and that monetizing state assets would help raise funds to spur economic growth.

A man wearing a face mask stands outside a bank on the first day of a two-day nationwide strike in Mumbai, India, Monday, March 28, 2022. (AP/Rafiq Maqbool)

A man wearing a face mask stands outside a bank on the first day of a two-day nationwide strike in Mumbai, India, Monday, March 28, 2022. (AP/Rafiq Maqbool)

The All India Trade Union Congress, the country’s largest trade union coalition, said it expected more than 200 million formal and informal workers to join the strike. Demonstrations took place in New Delhi, Mumbai, Calcutta and other major cities.

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

Essential services related to banking, transportation, rail and electricity were affected in several states due to the strike . A number of public sector banks, including India’s largest lender, the state-run State Bank of India, said their banking services were affected as many employees participated in the strike.

Bank employees shout slogans on the first day of a two-day nationwide strike in Mumbai, India, Monday, March 28, 2022. (AP/Rafiq Maqbool)

Bank employees shout slogans on the first day of a two-day nationwide strike in Mumbai, India, Monday, March 28, 2022. (AP/Rafiq Maqbool)

India’s economy has bounced back after taking a major hit during the first two years of the pandemic. But many jobs have disappeared, with the unemployment rate rising to eight percent in December.

Modi’s government last year struggled to cope with massive farmer protests demanding the complete repeal of a controversial agriculture law that the government views as necessary reform.

Years of protests by farmers, fearing the law would dramatically reduce their income, forced Modi to delay its implementation. [ab/uh]