India Labor Strike Sees Mixed Response
By Khushita Vasant
MUMBAI--A two-day nationwide strike called jointly by trade unions in India began Wednesday with little impact on
normal life in big cities such as Mumbai and New Delhi. But several other places faced crippled transport services and
low attendance in offices.
The strike was called by 11 major trade unions. Their demands include strict enforcement of labor laws, universal
social security cover, assured pension for all and abolishment of contract work.
The strike underlines the discontent among workers who feel they have been left out of India's economic prosperity
over the past decade. It began a day before India's parliament starts its new session, which is expected to be stormy
with allegations of corruption in government deals likely taking the center stage.
Industry body Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry warned that the strike could shave off up to 200 billion
rupees ($3.7 billion) from India's gross domestic product at a time the economy is facing its worst slowdown in a
Millions of workers across sectors such as road transport, automobile, port and dock, power, petroleum, coal and
steel, telecommunications and postal services are participating in the strike, said D. Sachdev, a spokesman for the
left-leaning All India Trade Union Congress.
At Ambala in the northern state of Punjab, a bus driver died when another bus he was trying to stop hit him, news
agency Press Trust of India reported, citing local transport officials.
Buses weren't plying in states such as Kerala, Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh, television reports said. There were also
disruptions in railway operations in some places, they said.
In Mumbai, India's main financial hub, the strike didn't hit normal life. Vehicles were on the road with a Mumbai
transport union withdrawing its strike call late Tuesday. The city's suburban trains are reporting normal traffic.
The strike was expected to affect trading volumes in the government bond market with some officers at state-run banks
staying away from work. But, save for some absentees in the bond and currency markets, work continued as usual, dealers
at state-run and foreign banks said.
A spokesman for State Bank of India, the country's largest lender by assets, said almost all employees reported for
work at its headquarters in Mumbai, but some workers may have struck work at its branches.
Employees of private banks aren't on strike.
The strike didn't have much impact in New Delhi, the capital city, though some shops were shut and many taxis were off
the road. Bus and metro-train services weren't affected.
However, protests in Noida, on the outskirts of Delhi, turned violent as some vehicles were set ablaze, television
A retailers' union is expected to stage a protest at Jantar Mantar in central Delhi Thursday. They are against the
government's decision to allow foreign supermarkets to set up shop in India.
In West Bengal, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee warned traders of strict action if they struck work, media reports
said. State employees were also threatened with a pay cut if they did not report to work, they said.
Most software companies said the strike didn't affect their operations. Bangalore-based Infosys Ltd. has declared a
holiday at a facility in the city of Mysore which it uses mainly as a training center.
--Dhanya Ann Thoppil in Bangalore contributed to this article.
Write to Khushita Vasant at firstname.lastname@example.org
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