Millions of workers were on strike Wednesday in India to protest against the economic reforms of the government of Narendra Modi, the largest demonstration of union strength since coming to power.
Unions fear that the reforms of the labor market promised by Modi be detrimental to employment and asked the Prime Minister to waive facilitate layoffs and closing factories out of age.
The answer of workers in this strike call is beautiful, said the secretary of the All India Trade Union Congress, estimating that 150 million the number of strikers, a figure that could not be independently confirmed.
The strike, the largest in two years, particularly affects public banks, mining, manufacturing and transport.
This strike is an opportunity to remind the government must consult the millions of workers (affected) before changing labor laws, said a bank employee strike, Amit Khanna, told in New Delhi.
The move took place in the quiet except for some clashes between police and protesters in the state of West Bengal (east), where unions have a strong foundation.
Police and charged with batons on protesters in the state capital, Calcutta, and dislodged the strikers were women sit-in while some demonstrators threw stones and vandalized cars.
Banks, shops and businesses were mostly closed in the city, transport users being wedged at the main station where protesters blocked commuter trains.
In New Delhi, long queues have formed at bus stops and passengers found themselves stranded at the airport due to the strike taxis and rickshaws. Some of the taxi and rickshaw drivers had to stop work under the constraint of strikers.
I told the strikers that I was going to the hospital, but they said it’s a strike today “and they hit me,” he told a rickshaw driver to a string TV outside his damaged vehicle.
Modi won the legislative elections in May 2015 on a promise to reform the economy to attract foreign investment and boost growth in the third Asian economy.
His government wants to simplify social legislation, which depends on a myriad of laws sometimes dating back to the British colonial era, and wants one single labor code for the industry.
For employers, the 44 national laws and 150 specific legislation of each state are costly and hinder the arrival of foreign investors.
The law thus provides that businesses must keep countless files for inspection and compile reports on the presence, overtime, sick leave. It also covers, for example on the number of spittoons in factories or regularity of cleaning the bathroom walls.
The government wants to facilitate the dismissal in companies with more than 300 people and make it harder to create new unions.
Trade unions recognize the need for reform but feel that the government’s proposals will undermine job security and compensation of employees.
Ten unions support the strike after the failure of recent negotiations with the Finance Minister Arun Jaitley.
Last month, they had called for the improvement of social security measures and the establishment of a national minimum wage of 15,000 rupees, against a current minimum of 5000-9000 rupees by state.
The Indian economy grew less than expected growth of 7% in the first quarter and experts believe that reforms are necessary to at least maintain this course to create jobs for millions of young people.
Day laborers, domestic workers and small vendors have joined the movement to demand the minimum wage increase.