Millions of Indians strike against economic policy

India’s government has announced radical economic reforms. Numerous Indians protest against it, in many places it becomes violent. And the economy isn’t the only issue Indians are protesting against.

Protests against the Citizenship Law last Friday in Bangalore

MSeveral million workers in India protested their government’s economic policies with a full-day strike on Wednesday. Specifically, they opposed plans to sell some of the state-owned companies and to liberalize the labor market. With marches and rallies in the capital New Delhi and in several other large cities, they turned against the privatization of the airline Air India and the oil company Bharat Petroleum.

Ten large trade unions called for the strike, denouncing Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “anti-workers and anti-people policies”. They called for higher minimum wages and pensions. In their opinion, thousands of jobs could be lost with partial privatizations. They also fear that a planned law will make it easier for companies to lay off their jobs. The union CITU estimated the number of strikers at up to 250 million. The authorities did not confirm this figure.

Police shoot hard

In some places the demonstrations turned into violence. Police used live ammunition in the state of West Bengal. A senior police officer said police fired warning shots in the air to disperse protesters, set police vehicles on fire and throw stones at security guards. In addition, the police used tear gas and batons against demonstrators. According to the police, more than 150 people were arrested.

In several states, such as Assam and Punjab, protesters blocked roads and rails of public transport. Banks and shops were also partially closed. Employees in banks, energy and transport companies and in the mining industry in particular responded to the call to strike.

In December there were mass protests against a naturalization law in India. This makes it easier for illegally entered migrants from the three predominantly Muslim neighboring countries of Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan to naturalize, provided they are not Muslims. These protests continue on a smaller scale. The protesters criticize that the new law threatens India’s secular identity.