Strike In India Involves Millions Of Workers Protesting Labor Reforms

A one-day strike in India has involved millions of workers. The reason for the strike was the recent economic reform package Prime Minister Narendra Modi introduced. Protesters say that it puts jobs at risk. The strike in India, referred to as “Bharat Bandh,” has involved an estimated 15 crore (150 million workers). Ten labor unions in India were responsible for organizing the strike.

The plan that has been introduced allows workers to be hired and fired more easily, as well as selling several state owned companies. Under the old rules, companies with more than 100 workers had to get government permission to lay off workers. Under the new rules, that number has been increased to 300. Forty-four labor laws were replaced with 4. Companies of 40 or fewer workers would not be covered by labor laws at all. One leader claimed that 70 percent of the workforce might be out of a job if the reforms came into effect. The protesters also wanted the companies and factories that the Indian government would close be revived. Domestic workers and day laborers called for an increase in the minimum wage.

A wide variety of workers all over India participated in the strike: bankers, construction workers, coal miners, and manufacturers. Schools, banks, and shops were closed. Public transportation in India has been halted for the day. In several places, rival groups clashed. Police arrested strikers in several cities.

Prime Minister Modi was elected in a landslide last year, mostly for promises that he would introduce reforms that would revitalize the economy and decrease the still worryingly high rates of poverty and illiteracy in India. Many of his planned reforms have been blocked by unions and opposition groups. The rate of growth in India in the period ending in June fell to 7 percent from 7.5 percent in the first quarter of the year. The World Bank rated India 134 out of 189 in worldwide rank of ease of doing business.

India is no stranger to labor strikes. In 2009, there were 127 strikes, 200 in 2010, and 265 in 2012. The largest strike in the last few years was in 2013, when 100 million workers went on strike on February 21 and 22. The strike, which was organized by 11 different trade unions, brought India to a standstill. The stated reason for the strike was the increase in cost of gas, diesel, electricity, and coal. Even that is dwarfed by the railway worker strike in 1974; the 20-day strike is not only the largest ever in India, but the largest known strike in the world.

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