Indian workers participate in a rally as part of the nationwide labor strike at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi, capital of India, Sept. 2, 2016. Millions of workers across Indian states Friday observed a day-long strike demanding better wages and new labor reforms. (Xinhua/Stringer)
NEW DELHI, Sept. 2 (Xinhua) -- Millions of workers across Indian states Friday observed a day-long strike demanding better wages and new labor reforms.
The strike affected public sector such as banks, government offices and industrial clusters and even disrupted public transport in many states of India. However, private banks functioned normally.
The strike was jointly called by nine central trade unions (CTUs) to protest the government's economic reforms and what they describe federal government's "anti-labor" policies.
Trade union leaders said Friday's strike saw 150 million workers across India off the work. However, their claims could not be verified.
While the Indian government maintained that reforms were needed to bolster the country's economy, trade union leaders said the government has ignored demands of workers in banking, telecommunication and manufacturing industries.
Reports said the strike call evoked mixed response with Kerala and major portion of Karnataka observing complete shutdown, while in others states including West Bengal, Odisha, the partial impact of strike was observed. In New Delhi and Mumbai buses were plying on roads and essential services like power and water supply remained unaffected.
The Delhi government invoked the stringent Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA) to ensure presence of employees in its offices and quelled a demonstration by nurses demanding salaries. The protesting nurses were allegedly manhandled by the police contingents and whisked away in police buses to end their demonstrations. Around 20,000 nurses work in government hospitals in Delhi, according to reports.
The trade unions demanded a fixed minimum monthly wages of 268 U.S. dollars for each worker.
"The government announcement about hike in daily wages of unskilled non-agricultural workers from 3.6 U.S. dollars (INR 246) to 5.2 U.S. dollars (INR 350) is not acceptable," said Tapan Sen, leader of Center of Indian Trade Unions (CITU).
On Tuesday in a bid to reach out to the trade unions, India's Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said government will release state employees' bonuses for the last two years, and increase minimum wages for unskilled laborers. The trade unions rejected government appeal on Tuesday to call off the strike, saying it has failed to address their demands.
The trade unions accused government of ignoring their 12-point charter of demands and continuing with unilateral labor reforms.
"Our basic demands also include containing the price rise by banning speculative trade in commodity market and stoppage of disinvestment of public sector undertakings (PSUs)," Sen said.