Millions Strike in India Over inflation, 'Anti-Worker' Policies

Inflation is running at a 13-year peak of 12.44%

Indian airport, rail and bank workers went on strike on August 20 to protest against soaring inflation and the government's "anti-worker" policies, officials and reports said. The nationwide action called by trade unions was also to protest against an average 21% wage hike for government officials that the strikers say ignores junior staff, the Press Trust of India reported.

All India Trade Union Congress leader Gurudas Das Gupta said millions of workers, including some in India's fast-growing telecoms industry, were off work and would "make the strike a big success."

"The agitation will be a warning to the government.... not to pamper the corporates and speculators, both domestic and foreign, at the cost of the rights and livelihoods of the toiling people," a union statement said.

Flights from India's capital New Delhi to the eastern city of Kolkata, the capital of Marxist-ruled West Bengal state, were the one-day strike's "first casualty," a Delhi airport official said. Kolkata airport official V.K. Monga said all flights from the city airport had been cancelled until August 21. "Employee attendance is very poor," he added.

Rail and road traffic in West Bengal was in disarray, while attendance at government and private offices was thin, other officials reported.

More than 10,000 security personnel have been deployed "as a precautionary step," senior West Bengal police officer Raj Kanojia said.

Inflation, the main focus of the strike, is running at a 13-year peak of 12.44%, fuelled by higher fruit and fuel prices and manufactured goods, causing huge hardship to lower-paid employees.

Banking services too were hit by the strike. Some 900,000 bank workers took action to protest against a move to merge state-run banks as well as outsourcing in the banking industry, All-India Bank Employees' Association General Secretary C.H. Venkatchalam said. There was sparse attendance at public sector banks, the reports said, adding that clearing operations, foreign exchange and money market operations could be affected.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2008

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