Nationwide Strike Stalls Daily Life in India, Millions of Workers Participate

Millions of workers went on strike in India on Tuesday, on the heels of failed negotiations with the government. (Photo: NDTV)

Millions of workers went on strike in India on Tuesday, on the heels of failed negotiations with the government. (Photo: NDTV)

Trade unions across India began a 24-hour, nationwide strike on Tuesday after high inflation and poor working conditions became an area of contention between the unions and government. The unions were joined in their protests by an estimated 800,000 public sector employees, marking one of the largest strikes in the country’s history.

Life in some regions came to a subsequent standstill, as the shutdown significantly hit banking, transportation, postal service and the operation of India’s ports. West Bengal, Tripura and Kerala, known to house influential communist parties, are expected to be the most affected.

Although India has managed to bring its inflation rate down to 7 percent from 9.1 percent in December, workers are demanding more government initiatives to control high prices, as well as social security coverage for non-unionized workers and an end to selling stakes in state-run companies.

Members of Congress have called the strike “politically motivated and illegal”, but the strike began only after the government failed to present a compromise on Monday. “This is a historic occasion,” said All India Trade Union Congress General Secretary Gurudas Dasgupta, as for the first time all the major trade unions irrespective of political affiliations are coming together to protest anti-labor polices of the government.”

The Hindustan Times referred to the event as the “mother of all strikes” and presented fears around how the strike might impact water, health and sanitation. Some ministries went so far as to prohibit their employees from participating in the movement.

The strike comes as India’s ruling Congress party is fighting five state elections, one of which is in its most populous state, Uttar Pradesh. It will be the country’s 14th general strike since the economy was opened up with major reforms in 1991.

Sabrina Siddiqui is the editor-in-chief of Divanee.com.

@sabrinasiddiqui