The nationwide strike called for by central trade unions on Thursday, coupled with the ‘Delhi Chalo’ rallies of farmers in north India, led to a near total shutdown in a few states and protests in others. Indian trade union leaders issued a clarion call to the government to repeal anti-worker labour codes and anti-farmer farm laws as a massive mobilization of industrial and agricultural workers and farmers across the country disrupted normal life across the country, in rural and urban areas.
More importantly, the general strike also witnessed broad-based alliances with farmers, agricultural workers, students and teachers.
West Bengal, Kerala and Tamil Nadu have already seen rallies in support amidst what appears to be complete observance of the strike.
Protest rallies were taken out in nearly all major towns and cities including New Delhi.
The day-long strike has been called for by a joint platform of 10 central trade unions, including Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC), All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC), Hind Mazdoor Sabha (HMS), Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), All India United Trade Union Centre (AIUTUC), Trade Union Co-ordination Centre (TUCC) and Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA).
Their demands included:
The general strike occurred in the context of the devastation brought about by the coronavirus pandemic in India. India has more than 9.2 million people infected with Covid-19, the second highest count in the world. Since the pandemic began, nearly 135,000 have died, according to official data. It is likely the numbers are much higher. Added to this are the millions of people who have lost income and who now face increased poverty and hunger, in a country where even before the pandemic 50 percent of all children suffered malnourishment.
Small farmers from three major agriculture-based states in India marched all the way to Delhi to protest laws passed by Modi’s government that would allow for larger corporate freedom and industrial farming. They were met with tear gas and brutal repression by the police upon entering Delhi.
Meanwhile, Modi has also escalated his nationalist rhetoric, especially against China, in an effort to capitalize on the trade war between the U.S. and China and deepen its strategic and military cooperation with the United States.