250 Million People Join Massive Two-Day Strike in India

Workers Continue March on Delhi

December 8, 2020

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On November 26 and 27, an astonishing 250 million people took to the streets in India for a two-day general strike. The strike, by some estimates the largest in world history, was an extreme show of worker solidarity across all job types, as 10 national industrial trade unions joined with over 250 agricultural groups to advance their demands.

Workers in nearly every major industry joined the strike – including coal, telecommunications, engineering, transportation, docks, and banking. Agricultural workers in the country are especially hard hit, and have been protesting the new anti-farmer laws since their passage by the right-wing government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in September.

The Modi government, using COVID-19 as an excuse, has reacted to these protests with violence and widescale arrests.

The two-day strike occurred while hundreds of thousands of farmers from the country’s agriculturally-dominated states continued a march on the capital city of Delhi, blocking highways and demanding the government meet them in negotiations. While the general strike concluded after November 27, the farmers have indicated they will continue the ongoing action for as long as it takes to force the government to repeal its new agriculture laws. As of December 8, the farmers remain at the city’s borders as negotiations with the government continue. The movement has roused strong international support, with protests held at India’s embassies in multiple countries.

The united front of Indian trade unions and agricultural organizations released a joint charter of demands, which includes the repeal of the recently passed anti-worker and anti-farmer laws. The workers also demand greater protections for workers, an end to privatization in the public sector, and increases to minimum wage and pensions. 

“Despite the severe police actions across the country, workers enthusiastically participated in the strike. The recent labour law changes, including the new codes on social security, wages and industrial relations, should be revoked as they fall short of protecting fundamental principles and rights at work,” said Sanjay Vadhavkar, General Secretary of the Steel, Metal and Engineering Workers Federation of India (SMEFI). 

“On many aspects [the new laws] go against India’s commitments in the international human rights and labour rights forums. Mishandling of Covid-19 and anti-people economic policies pushed millions into misery,” Vadhavkar continued. “This strike and the joint action with farmers will send a strong message to government demanding workers’ and people-oriented policies.”

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