THREE MILLION Indian workers struck for the day on Tuesday of last week against plans to cut pensions and other benefits to government workers and introduce flexible working. 'This is the 11th strike in the last ten years against neo-liberalism,' says Rakesh, leader of the Lucknow banking workers' union federation.
The strike in the public sector, banking, insurance, the post and telegraph, docks and airports was called by the left unions, although not by those associated with the main opposition party, Congress, or with the ruling Hindu chauvinist BJP. It comes after a court ruling two years ago that government workers have no legal or moral right to strike.
The BJP has been riding high in the run-up to the general election with the slogan 'India is shining'. Congress has been so riddled with corruption and opportunism that it is not a credible alternative. Yet the BJP is not immune from problems. Its allies in the fascist-like RSS are demanding that the government give an assurance that it will build a temple on the former site of the mosque in Ayodhya.
But prime minister Vajpayee does not want another round of communal riots that will alienate the centre parties in his coalition and the US and big business, which want peace with Pakistan. And the strike shows not all of India is shining.