World’s Largest Protest: 250 million Indians go on a nationwide strike against Modi’s policies

At least 10 central trade unions will participate in nationwide strike on January 8 to protest against the government’s “anti-people” policies.

The strike will see participants from across the country, including government employees, bank employees, teachers and workers from various sectors such as steel and railways. Organisers said 25 crore (250 million) people will participate in the strikes.

INTUC, AITUC, HMS, CITU, AIUTUC, TUCC, SEWA, AICCTU, LPF, UTUC along with various sectoral independent federations and associations had adopted a declaration in September last to go on a nationwide strike on January 8, 2020.

“We expect the participation of not less than 25 crores of working people in the forthcoming National General Strike on January 8, 2020, to be followed by many more actions seeking reversal of the anti-worker, anti-people, anti-national policies of the Government.

“The Ministry of Labour has failed to assure on any of the demands of workers which called a meeting on January 2, 2020. The attitude of the government is that of contempt towards labour as we construe from its policies and actions,” the 10 central trade unions (CTUs) said in a joint statement.

About 60 organisations of students and elected office-bearers of some universities have also decided to join the strike with an agenda to raise voice against increased fee structure and commercialization of education, it said.

The trade unions condemned the JNU violence and similar incidents in other university campuses and expressed their solidarity with students and teachers all over India.

The unions also expressed displeasure over no Indian Labour Conference being held since July 2015, the codification of labour laws and privatisation of PSUs.

“As many as 12 airports are already sold out to private hands, 100 per cent sale of Air India is already decided, the decision to sell BPCL taken, BSNL-MTNL merger announced and 93,600 telecom workers already thrown out of jobs under the garb of VRS (voluntary retirement scheme),” it added.

The unions are also against privatisation in railways, corporatisation of 49 defence production units and forced merger of banks.

A Joint platform of more than 175 farmers and agricultural workers unions will extend its support to workers’ demands and observe January 8 as Gramin Bharat Bandh along with their charter of demands, they added.

Key demands: 

1. Drop the proposed labour reforms: A bill introduced in the Lok Sabha proposes to merge 44 labour laws into four codes — wages, industrial relations, social security and safe working conditions.

A take back on the labour code that was approved by the Modi government which  seeks to derecognise labour unions, and make firing employees easier for employers, among other amendments. It counts strikes as “mass casual leave” and that a union will be recognised only if it has the support of more than 75% of the workers.

2. Raise minimum wage: Some of the other demands put forward the unions are a raise in the minimum wage to Rs 21,000-Rs 24,000 per month.

3. Other demands: Stopping the privatisation of public sector undertakings; and repealing the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), National Register of Citizens (NRC) and National Population Register (NPR).