General strike in India protests Narendra Modi's economic policies

A two-day nationwide strike called by hundreds of thousands of workers to protest the government’s economic policies has has spread to...


A two-day nationwide strike called by hundreds of thousands of workers to protest the government’s economic policies has has spread to large parts of India, with walkout supporters blocking roads and railways, and public transport absent from the streets of many cities.

As Indian authorities rushed to roll out contingency plans to deal with the strike, the country’s federal energy ministry ordered all state-owned power companies to be on high alert to ensure that hospitals, defense installations and railways continue to be supplied with electricity.

The shutdown, which began early Monday, was called by dozens of unions representing public and private sector workers. Union leaders said the protests targeted various government policies they said were hurting workers, farmers and Indians in general. They also said they were calling for the immediate scrapping of new labor laws that allow contract labor, give employers more leeway in setting wages and increase working hours.

“The current government is anti-worker and anti-poor,” said Arthanari Soundararajan, an opposition Communist Party of India (Marxist) politician in Tamil Nadu state.

Across the southern state of Tamil Nadu, hundreds of protesters in red shirts appeared in the streets, blocking roads and chanting anti-government slogans, saying they were against the privatization of power stations and the rising fuel prices.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has made a strong case for privatization of some state-owned assets which he describes as underperforming. Government-backed financial institutions are protesting a federal decision to privatize them and are also protesting a bill that would reduce the government’s minimum stake in public sector banks from 51% to 26%.

As banking unions join the strike, the government-run State Bank of India has warned customers that banking services are likely to be affected on Monday and Tuesday.

Protesting employees blocked railway tracks and stopped trains at several locations in the state of West Bengal. In Kerala, in the south, the streets were empty and the shops closed.

In the western state of Maharashtra, home to the financial capital Mumbai, the local government invoked a law banning employees of public power companies from joining the protest.

In India’s capital, New Delhi, some lawmakers supported the protest, holding signs inside the country’s federal parliament to protest fuel price hikes.

The list of strikers 12 claims includes freezing all privatization plans and providing universal social security to workers in the so-called informal sector of the country’s working population, such as scavengers, street sweepers and rickshaw drivers. The informal sector is about 80% of India’s 470 million workers.

Anurag Saxena, a senior member of the Indian Trade Union Centre, which has more than six million members nationwide who work in the coal, steel, oil, telecommunications, banking and insurance sectors, said Mr Modi’s government was changing labor laws. to the detriment of workers, effectively lowering wages even amid rising inflation. Privatization plans are another sore point.

“They’re selling off railways, airports, ports, the oil and gas refinery industry and our electricity transmission sector, there’s nothing left,” Saxena said. “Everything our ancestors built in this country is now being sold to large corporations and private contractors.”

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Newsrust - US Top News: General strike in India protests Narendra Modi's economic policies
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