Socialist Worker

Strikes and protests in India pressure Modi’s BJP before the general election

Issue No. 2637

Narendra Modi

Narendra Modi (Pic: President of Russia)


Up to 200 million workers in India joined a two-day general strike last week.

City centres across the country were unusually quiet on Wednesday and Thursday as rickshaws and buses remained in depots.

Large and militant pickets at the main rail stations ensured that few trains ran either.

Despite bosses and politicians’ pleading, sectors such as telecoms, health, education, coal, steel, and banking were also hit hard as ten union federations joined together.

Activists had spread their appeal for workers’ rights, decent social security and pensions to the countryside. Thousands of farm labourers joined strikes and protests throughout rural India.

Farmers are increasingly angry with India’s far right BJP government, led by Narendra Modi. Since Modi slashed the amount of cash in circulation—in a bid to combat corruption—crop prices have halved.

Meanwhile, public spending cuts mean that what services did exist are vanishing.

Projects

The BJP likes to talk about big infrastructure projects that the government plans, and about India’s increasing status as a world power. Yet it ignores the utter poverty of those forced to rely on meagre pensions or benefits when they can no longer work.

Young people in particular are disillusioned with Modi and his government looks increasingly stricken. State elections at the end of last year saw the BJP and its allies routed in central Indian states.

And things are not looking good for national elections that must be held this May.

The BJP is desperate to whip up prejudice against Muslims and religious minorities, as well as fanning the flames of caste oppression.

But last week’s strikes, and the huge women’s movement on the streets, mean prospects for the far right seem weak.


Bangladesh garment workers strike for pay

Tens of thousands of garment workers in Bangladesh who make clothes for multinational firms began a second week of strikes on Monday.

Police used water cannons and tear gas last Sunday against large crowds of striking factory workers near the capital, Dhaka.

One worker was killed on Tuesday of last week when police fired rubber bullets and tear gas at 5,000 protesting workers.

Minimum wages for the lowest paid garment workers rose by a little over 50 percent this month, but only to 8,000 taka (£74) a month. Slightly better paid workers said the rise was far too small as prices rise fast.

Bangladesh’s 4,500 textile and clothing factories provides 80 percent of Bangladesh’s exports.

They are shipped to the global supply chains of firms such as Primark, H&M, Aldi, Walmart and Tesco.


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