India workers’ strike sees mixed response


A nationwide strike called by most of India’s major trade unions has had a mixed response across the country, with shops and banks closed in some areas and passengers stranded at railway stations on Tuesday.

Eleven central unions and thousands of smaller unions across the political spectrum backed the strike, calling on the government to implement tighter labor laws and anti-inflation measures.

All India Trade Union Congress general secretary Gurudas Dasgupta told the Agence France Presse: “This is a historic occasion. For the first time all the big trade unions have come together to protest the anti-labor policies of the government.”

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The 24-hour strike, which began at midnight on Monday, hit transport, banking and postal services.

In Kolkata, a union stronghold, most bank branches, shops and other businesses were shut and rickshaws and taxis stayed off the streets, although the city’s metro and international and domestic airports were functioning normally.

In Mumbai, India’s financial capital, All India Bank Employees Association general secretary Vishwas Utagi said there had been a “complete shutdown” of the banking sector.

There however, and in New Delhi, businesses remained open for custom and buses and taxis plied the streets, according to the Associated Press, though passengers arriving at New Delhi’s main station had difficulty getting to other parts of the city.

Elsewhere, the state government, public bus services and railways were largely unaffected, with schools and colleges staying open.

The strikers have demanded a national minimum wage, permanent jobs for contract workers and social security benefits like pensions for all workers, according to the BBC.

They have also called on the government of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to stop selling off profitable state-owned firms in order to cut India’s budget deficit, and for improved efforts to bring India’s 7.5 percent inflation rate down. 

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