180 million workers may join 2-day trade union strike in January against Modi government
Weeks after the November 29-30 farmers’ protests in the capital, trade unions are organising a 48-hour national strike in the new year to showcase workers’ discontent against the Narendra Modi government.
All central trade unions, except the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh-affiliated Bhartiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS), have called a national strike on January 8 and 9 to protest against unemployment and other issues. Union leaders claim that 180 million workers, from the organised and unorganised sectors, are expected to join the strike, according to organisers familiar with the matter.
Bhoomi Adhikar Andolan, a powerful platform of farmers’ bodies, has lent support to the strike, added Tapan Sen, general secretary of Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), the workers’ arm of the Communist Party of India (Marxist). The much-needed support may help trade unions penetrate rural areas as well.
But the trade unions’ unity suffered a setback with BMS refusing to join the strike. “It’s a politically motivated strike. They are utilising workers for political benefit. There is no justification for either the timing or the context,” said Vrijesh Upadhyay of BMS.
While the farmers’ protests were centered around the agrarian crisis, the trade unions are focusing on the unavailability of jobs.
“The unemployment situation is getting aggravated by job generation practically turning negative even in the most labour-intensive sectors. The phenomenon of closure and shutdown of industries and the forecast of huge job losses in the IT sector are adding fuel to the fire,” said Sen.
Trade union leaders also cited a Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) report that says the unemployment rate in October rose to 6.9% and nearly 30 million youth are unemployed.
The government, however, rejected the charges. Earlier, Prime Minister Narendra Modi pointed out that under the Mudra scheme, at least 12 crore loans had been sanctioned. He cited Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation data to show how at least 4.1 million jobs had been created between September 2017 and April 2018. Government managers added that massive work on rural and urban infrastructure means high levels of job creation in the unorganized sector.