UP TO 50 million Indian public sector workers joined a powerful one-day strike in protest against government privatisation plans on Wednesday of last week. Workers in banking, insurance, the post office, transport and mining joined the action ensuring major disruption nationwide. For the second time this month, a strike has hit the financial sector particularly hard.
In Calcutta morning rush hour streets were deserted and the stock exchange was forced to close. Around the country train services were hit as workers blockaded railway lines. Anger at privatisation is centred on the threat of massive job losses, attacks on workers' rights and changes to pension schemes that will see employers making a reduced contribution to the pension fund.
India's right wing BJP government's plans to raise money by selling off state owned banks and companies over the next year in order to reduce its budget deficit. Trade unions are threatening further action, including longer strikes, if the government does not back down.
There are signs that the unpopularity of privatisation is hitting the BJP support in elections, and is even alienating its own party workers, many of whom are boycotting work for their government ministers.