Services disrupted as millions go on strike in India

NEW DELHI • India's transport and banking services were disrupted yesterday as millions of employees joined a strike called by the country's major trade unions to protest against Prime Minister Narendra Modi's economic policies.

About 250 million people across at least 12 states, including Kerala, West Bengal, Bihar, Odisha and Assam, went on strike, said Mr Tapan Sen, general secretary of the Centre of Indian Trade Unions.

Farmers in many of the states joined in road blockades, he said.

The one-day stoppage had been called by 10 trade unions affiliated to communist parties and the opposition Congress party.

They were demanding that the government rein in price rises and unemployment, provide social security for workers, stop disinvestment in certain state-owned companies and halt overseas investment in the railways, insurance, coal and defence sectors.

The unions are seeking a "reversal of the anti-worker, anti-people, anti-national policies of the government", they said in a joint statement.

The union affiliated with Mr Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party, which claims 10 million members, did not participate in the strike.

An estimated 500,000 of the 850,000 employees at state-run banks participated in the strike, Mr C. H. Venkatachalam, the general secretary of the All India Bank Employees' Association, said.

Although State Bank of India, the nation's largest, has stayed out of the strike, operations of all other state-run banking and insurance institutions will be affected, he said.

 
 

Police said there had been some "clashes" in Kolkata and other districts between supporters and opponents of the strike.

Some workers at state oil and coal firms joined the strike.

The central government had warned strikers that they would face "consequences" including having their wages deducted and other disciplinary action if they joined the protest.

The strike is being held at a time when Mr Modi is grappling with the slowest economic growth in India since 2009, a jobless rate that has surged to a more than four-decade high and mass protests against his Hindu nationalist agenda.

BLOOMBERG, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 09, 2020, with the headline 'Services disrupted as millions go on strike in India'. Print Edition | Subscribe