Feb 21 2013
A strike by millions of low-skilled workers in India has seen banks close and public transport disrupted, amid reports of two deaths in the north.
An estimated 100 million Indians, angry about rising prices, low pay and poor working condition, walked off their jobs on Wednesday, on the first day of a two-day strike organised by eleven major trade unions.
The strikers are demanding a legal minimum wage, fairer contracts and improved working conditions.
“Workers are being totally ignored and this is reflected in the government’s anti-labour policies,” said Tapan Sen, general secretary of the umbrella Centre of Indian Trade Unions.
Earlier this week, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who is facing the worst economic slowdown in a decade, had asked for the strike to be called off.
However, the strike went ahead after the government refused to bow to union demands to reverse recent reforms aimed at opening sectors, including retail and airlines, to greater participation by foreign investors.
“We want the government to take note of this,” said Akhtar Hussain, vice-president of the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh, or Indian Workers’ Union.