NEW DELHI – Thousands gathered in central New Delhi on Wednesday to protest the Indian government’s labor policies and proposed reforms as part of a two-day countrywide shutdown.
Protesters shouted slogans and carried posters that accused the government, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, of anti-worker policies, and also demanded better pay and benefits for workers.
Union representatives told EFE on Wednesday that the two-day shutdown had sent a strong political message to the government in the run-up to the general elections in 2019, when Modi would be seeking a second term in power.
“All sectors have been protesting the government’s anti-worker policies. This strike comes right after the farmers’ protests and will send a strong political message to the government which has been destroying labor laws in the name of reform,” said Shweta Raj, secretary of the Delhi chapter of the All India Central Council of Trade Unions, one of the organizers.
She added that thousands of workers in the industrial belt of the Indian capital had responded to the call of shutdown and abstained from work.
The strike, launched by 10 central trade unions on Tuesday, was particularly effective in the eastern state of Bengal, and the southern state of Kerala.
“Public transport facilities have been affected by the general strike. Shops and establishments were rarely open. Although private vehicle were seen on the streets,” Kerala police spokesperson Pramod Kumar told EFE on Tuesday.
The Kerala chief minister’s office told EFE that the strike, called by national trade unions, including the Centre of Indian Trade Unions – affiliated to the Communist Party of India (Marxist) – and Indian National Trade Union Congress – affiliated to the principal opposition party Indian National Congress – was effective and attendance was low in government offices although no untoward incidents were reported.
Large-scale demonstrations were reported from the states of Bihar (north) and Andhra Pradesh (south), where workers demanded a minimum wage of 18,000 rupees ($255) per month and pensions.