Indian workers made history by organising largest ever general strike in the history

Indian workers made history by  organising largest ever general strike in the history

January 08-2020 saw the largest ever general strike of human history. Nearly 250 million workers across India went on a 24 hour long general strike. India is the world’s second-most populated country, with about 1.374 billion people. Over 928 million are “working age” (15 to 64 years old; On Jan. 8, one in four people in this age group — 250 million — stayed off the job in the biggest strike to date in world history.

The size of this strike is more than the total number of people that voted (219 million) for the ultra-right wing BJP government in the last general election of 2019.

It was one f the greatest show of strength-power and solidarity from Indian workers. The 24-hour strike shut down banking-transport, retail- public services construction sectors, and industry in many parts of the country. Workers blocked highways and railroad tracks, with their bodies- barricades- and burning tires. Police cars and government buildings were attacked in some places.

The strike was initially called around a 12-point program protesting Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s anti-worker legislation and massive privatization plans, affecting such national assets as airlines- railways and petroleum refineries.
 Other points addressed high unemployment and inflation in the world’s fifth-largest economy and called for raising the minimum wage and pensions. Two-thirds of the population lives on less than $2 a day; nearly half of them are “extremely poor,” subsisting on $1.25 a day or less.

When this strike was originally called, it was to register anger against anti-labour laws and the selling-off of the country’s assets. But now it’s broader because there are no jobs. The future of young people is being destroyed by Modi. This sentiment expressed the mood in the society and especially among the young people. 

Strikers also displayed, in signs and chants, widespread opposition to Prime Minister Modi’s Citizenship Amendment Act to deny citizenship to Muslims.

In some economic sectors strike participation was between 90-100 percent. The working class was on the streets on January 08. The streets in India was flooded with protesting workers.  The strike engaged the whole population, including large numbers of informal sector workers and farmers. Economic hardship has led to publicized suicides of thousands of farmers.

Student organizations in India and abroad were solidly behind the strike. A National Education Strike of students boycotting classes and calling for affordable education coincided with the January- 08 strike.
On Jan. 8, an estimated 250 million workers across India conducted the largest ever single-day general strike in history, targeted against the far-right Modi government that has declared an all-out war against workers along with its divisive agenda of religious bigotry. This countrywide strike was called Bharat Bandh, literally meaning Shutdown India.

This is the fourth country-wide strike by workers during Modi’s regime, the earlier three occurring Sept. 2, 2015 (80 million); Sept. 2, 2016 (150 million), and the two-day strike on Jan. 8-9, 2019 (150 million).

The strike was called by 10 big central trade unions: NTUC, AITUC, HMS, CITU, AIUTUC, TUCC, SEWA, AICCTU, LPF, UTUC, along with various independent federations and associations, with a declaration that was adopted in September last year at a mass workers’ conference.

All these trade unions represent unionized industrial workers and service sector workers, many of whom are employed by state-owned industries and companies. A significant portion of the unionized service workers, known as scheme-workers, mainly consisting of women, come from different welfare schemes run by the central government.

AIKSCC, the umbrella platform of over 175 organizations representing farmers, peasants, agricultural workers, and non-farm rural workers decided to join this strike, boosting it further. This wing of the mobilization was titled Grameen Bharat Bandh, “Rural India Shutdown!”
Not only unionized urban workers and rural workers but contractual workers joined the strike. 
                                                      Rukhsana Manzoor/Khalid Bhatti 

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