This post is intended more for this blog’s American, rather than Indian, readers.
The vitriol that has accompanied some recent posts related to Prime Minister Modi reflects political tensions that are being expressed very concretely, if complexly, in Indian daily life.
Last week, a major strike occurred in India. It involved about 150 million workers who were protesting some of the financial reforms proposed by the Modi government.
Regardless of whether one would support all of the strikers’ positions, one cannot help but note that has been a long time since American labor has demonstrated—or has had—this kind of political presence.
Here are the opening paragraphs of a summary from the BBC:
“Workers across India are staging a day-long strike to protest at the economic policies of the government.
“They say the ‘pro-business’ policies of the Narendra Modi-led BJP government will put their jobs at risk and hurt ordinary people.
“The unions are demanding the government drop plans to sell off stakes in state-run companies and change labour laws.
“Response to the strike has been mixed. Some banks are closed and public transport has been disrupted.
“Reports say some 150 million workers–mainly in banking, manufacturing, construction and coal mining industries–belonging to 10 major unions are expected to stay away from work on Wednesday.”
A more detailed breakdown of the major elements of the strike has been provided by the Asian Labour Review:
“About 150 million workers are on a nationwide strike and essential services like banking and public transport have been hit in many places. There is major impact in West Bengal and cities like Bengaluru, Hyderabad, and Thiruvananthapuram.
Here are the latest developments:
“1. Rival parties clashed in many places, including capital Kolkata, in West Bengal, where unions enjoy significant clout. In Kolkata, women activists from the Left were seen being dragged by the police. Banks, shops, and many schools are closed and all public transport is off roads.
“2. The bandh has also impacted Southern states. Around 3,500 government-run buses are not running in Hyderabad and public transport has also been hit in Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala. Schools and colleges are closed in Bengaluru.
“3. Ten major trade unions have called ‘Bharat bandh’ over the government’s pro-business initiatives, after talks with Finance Minister Arun Jaitley broke down.
“4. The unions are demanding that the government dump plans to sell off stake in state-run companies to boost the public purse and to shut down unproductive factories.
“5. They are also opposed to the government’s proposed labour reforms expected to diminish the influence of trade unions and make the labour market more flexible.
“6. Many banks have shut their doors for the day all over the country.
“7. Long lines of commuters and school children were seen waiting at bus stops in many cities across the country, including national capital Delhi, while passengers were stranded at airports as taxis and rickshaws stayed off the streets.
“8. Unions like Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS), which is backed by the ruling BJP, and the National Front of Trade Unions are not participating in the strike.
“9. PM Modi won a landslide election victory last May, promising a string of business-friendly reforms to attract foreign investment and revive the economy. But the opposition has blocked flagship tax and land reforms, aggravating investor concerns, while the unions are increasingly angry over the reforms.
“10. India’s economy grew by a slower than expected seven per cent in the first quarter of the financial year and experts say, reforms are needed to create jobs for millions of young people. Previous strikes have shut down cities and cost the Indian economy millions of dollars in lost production.”
The complete BBC article is available at: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-34125119
The article from the Asian Labour Review is available at: http://asianlabourreview.org/2015/09/02/150-million-workers-on-strike-in-india-today/
If you would like some background on the labor movement in India, there are two Wikipedia articles, “Labour in India” [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Labour_in_India] and “Trade Unions in India” [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trade_unions_in_India], which includes links to articles on individual, major unions.
There is also a fairly good article at TruthOut: http://truth-out.org/archive/component/k2/item/87147:brief-look-at-labor-unions-in-india