India: Millions strike for workers' rights

March 3, 2012
Millions of Indian workers took part in a nation-wide general strike on February 28.

Millions of workers joined a one-day strike in India on February 28 in defence of public ownership and for stronger labour rights.

Eleven major trade unions called the action to protest against the United Progressive Alliance government's policy of selling stakes in state-owned companies.

They also demanded an amendment to minimum wage laws to keep pace with inflation, pensions for all workers and the registration of trade unions in different industries.

The strike closed shops, banks and factories. Passengers were stranded at airports and railway stations in West Bengal state capital Kolkata as taxis and rickshaws stayed off the roads.

The Trinamool Congress (TMC) state government drafted scabs to drive privately owned buses and arrested more than 100 people. TMC supporters ransacked a local Communist Party of India-Marxist office in Jadavpur.

In Mumbai, the financial hub of India, the banking sector was completey shut down.

All-India Bank Employees Association general secretary Vishwas Utagi said: "The Reserve Bank of India's clearing houses are shut so the private and foreign banks were also affected."

All-India Trade Union Congress general secretary Gurudas Dasgupta hailed the strike as "a historic occasion”.

"For the first time all the big trade unions have come together to protest at the anti-labour polices of the government."

Dasgupta said nearly 5000 smaller unions from different trades took part.

In a joint statement, India's main unions said the strike had been a "fitting reply to the utter neglect and insensitivity of the government towards the problems and miseries of tens of millions of working people who are keeping the country's economy running”.

"The working people and their unions will not accept such indifference and will carry forward their struggle to a higher pitch if their basic demands are not addressed."

[Abridged from Morning Star.]

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