World Economy

150m Strike in India Over Labor Reforms

150m Strike in India Over Labor Reforms150m Strike in India Over Labor Reforms

Over 150 milliion workers are on a nationwide strike in India and essential services like banking and public transport have been hit in many places. There is major impact in West Bengal and cities like Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Thiruvananthapuram.

The workers held a 24-hour strike Wednesday in protest at right-wing Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s economic policies, which they say will put jobs at risk and hurt ordinary people, AFP reported.

Ten major unions went ahead with the day-long strike over the government’s pro-business initiatives after talks with Finance Minister Arun Jaitley broke down.                 

Unions are demanding the government dump plans to sell off stakes in state-run companies to boost the public purse and to shut down unproductive factories.

Some 150 million workers, including those in the banking, manufacturing, construction and coal mining sectors, walked off the job.

The strike also affected transport. Long lines of commuters and school children could be seen at bus stops early Wednesday, while passengers were stranded at airports as taxis and rickshaws stayed off the streets.

Financial services were expected to be hit by the strike, with many banks shutting their doors for the day.

Hawkers, domestic workers and daily wage laborers joined the strike to demand an increase in the minimum wage.

Television footage showed the strike’s impact in the eastern state of West Bengal, where unions enjoy significant clout, with the capital city of Kolkata mostly deserted with bank branches, shops and other businesses closed early Wednesday.

Rival parties clashed in many places, including Kolkata. In Kolkata, women activists from the Left were seen being dragged by the police. Banks, shops, and many schools are closed and all public transport is off roads.

The closer has also impacted southern states. Around 3,500 government-run buses are not running in Hyderabad and public transport has also been hit in Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala. Schools and colleges are closed in Bengaluru.

Modi won a landslide election victory last May, promising a string of business-friendly reforms to attract foreign investment and revive Asia’s third-largest economy.

But the opposition has blocked flagship tax and land reforms, aggravating investor concerns, while the unions are increasingly angry over the reforms.

India’s economy grew by a slower than expected 7% in the first quarter of the financial year and experts say reforms are needed to create jobs for millions of young people.

Previous strikes have shut down cities and cost the Indian economy millions of dollars in lost production.