200 million workers participated in the two-day nationwide strike in India

Apr 2022
United Nations
India, Strike

“Save the people and save the nation!”

This is the rallying cry of the trade unions in the two-day strike that was held across India on 28-29 March 2022. Organised under the banner of the joint platform of central trade unions (CTUs) and supported by many independent and sectoral federations and associations, the strike mobilised 200 million workers in India to collectively raise their demands.

Trade unions in Jharkhand joined the strike

The major demands of the strike were as follows:

  • Scrapping the anti-worker, anti-people, and anti-nation labour laws;
  • Repeal of the farm laws and electricity (amendment) bill;
  • Stopping privatization in any form and scrapping the national asset monetization pipeline;
  • Food and income support of Rs. 7500 per month for non-income tax-paying households;
  • Increased allocation for the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA) and extension of Employment Guarantee Scheme to urban areas;
  • Universal social security for all informal sector workers;
  • Statutory minimum wage and social security for all informal workers including Anganwadi, Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHA), mid-day-meal workers, and other scheme workers;
  • Proper protection and insurance facilities for frontline workers serving the people in the midst of the pandemic;
  • Increase in public investments in agriculture, education, health, and other crucial public utilities by taxing the rich through wealth tax in order to revive and revamp the national economy; and
  • Reduction in central excise duty on petroleum products and concrete remedial measures to arrest the price increase of basic commodities.

Affiliates of the ITUC-Asia Pacific – namely, Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC), Hind Mazdoor Sabha (HMS), Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA), and Confederation of Trade Unions of India (CFTUI) – played a crucial role in mobilising the successful strike.

“This is the fifth nationwide strike after the BJP (NDA) government came into the power. The government only servers the interest of their corporate friends and neglects the welfare of the workers whose working conditions have been deteriorating further,” Harbhajan Singh, General Secretary of HMS, said.

“Seventy percent of the country’s wealth has gone to the hands of the one percent – the wealthy elites and the corporations – while 99% of the population are forced to live only with the remaining 30 percent of the wealth. The gap between the rich and the poor is widening day by day.
A country cannot be built only with capital. Workers have contributed their blood and sweat for the progress of this country. Kindly pay their share too. If inequality persists and the precarious situation of the workers did not improve, trade unions will not be confined only to one- or two-days strike. We will be compelled to go for indefinite strike,” he added.
Trade unions marched in West Bengal

Workers from various sectors mobilised

The significant impact of the strike could be seen in the sectors like engineering, coal, steel, postal, oil, copper, and telecommunication sectors whose workers struck from the morning of 28 March until the late evening of 29 March. In some sectors and states, the strike started as early as 12:00 midnight of 28 March. Electricity workers went on strike in all the states even though many state governments invoked the Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA), which prohibits strikes in essential services sector and declare them illegal.

The employees of railways and defence sectors are reported to have organised aggressive demonstrations in more than one thousand areas across the India. Transport workers staged their protest by blockading roads and stopping railways in the several parts of the country.

Insurance and banking sectors also witnessed the immense impact of the two-day strike.

A large number of workers from the informal economy were in the frontlines in making the strike successful. The Anganwadi, ASHA, mid-day meal and domestic workers, construction, beedi, vendors, hawkers, and agriculture workers were able to mobilise their constituencies massively. It is pertinent to mention that women workers represent the largest section of the informal economy constituency who came out and hit the streets against the repressive and anti-people policies of the government.

Mobilisation of Anganwadi - Midwives' Union in Bihar
Women workers joined the strike in Delhi

Through the leadership of their association, Samyukt Kisan Moracha, the farmers mobilised in rural areas.  They showed their support for the workers’ demands while pressing for the farmers’ specific demands.

Public support and solidarity

“It must be noted that the general public supported the strike. They recognise and understand that the lives and livelihoods of the people has become miserable because of the rising prices of essential commodities, petroleum, and cooking gas,” G Sanjeeva Reddy, President of INTUC, said.

INTUC members gathered in the streets of Telengana

In this regard, Shoya Yoshida, General Secretary of ITUC-Asia Pacific, said,

“It is disheartening to see that the present government of India is biased against its own people as it continues to pursue anti-workers, anti- farmers and anti-people policies. We urge the government to initiate a proper and constructive dialogue with the trade unions in India and ensure that the Indian workers’ rights are protected and not violated.”

Shoya Yoshida also expressed his message of solidarity to the Indian workers and trade unions. He said, “Mobilising 200 million workers to jointly affirm the call to save the people and the nation is not an easy feat. I congratulate the trade unions in India for the success of their two-day strike. Our solidarity is with the Indian workers in their unwavering struggle for their hard-earned democratic rights.”

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