India trade unions lead strike in leftist bastions

10:01, September 08, 2010      

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Leftist trade unions led a strike in parts of India Tuesday, shutting down transportation, schools and shops, while also disrupting flights and banking services in protest of economic reform and price hikes.

Around 1 million banking workers went on strike to protest the role of private banks and foreign investment in the sector, the All India Bank Employees Association said.

Leading airline carriers canceled dozens of flights, and public transport in leftist bastions such as West Bengal state and Kerala ground to a halt.

A June decision by the ruling Congress party-led coalition to partially deregulate fuel prices at a time when inflation was hovering around the double-digit mark led to protests, squabbling among coalition allies and raucous scenes in parliament.

This has underscored a backlash against Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's attempts to push economic liberalization in this country and stay on target to keep the fiscal deficit at 5.5 percent in FY 2010-11.

The main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and leftist parties led the biggest opposition strike in years in July, in an attempt to dent Congress' center-left credentials ahead of major state elections, including in West Bengal.

"The main agenda for our strike was the price rise, violation of labor laws and disinvestment in the PSUs (state-run companies)," Kali Ghosh, secretary of the Centre of Indian Trade Unions in West Bengal, told Reuters.

Leading private carriers such as Kingfisher Airlines and Jet Airways Ltd announced dozens of flight cancellations to and from Kolkata, the capital of the traditional left bastion of West Bengal state.

"Security has been stepped up across the city to avoid untoward incidents," Kolkata city police chief Gautam Mohon Chakraborty told AFP.

Buses, taxis and rickshaws stayed off the road in West Bengal and Kerala states. Taxis and rickshaws shut off their engines in India's financial hub Mumbai, though the rest of the city remained largely unaffected by the strike. In Kerala, schools and almost all shops stayed shut.

In New Delhi, some branches of nationalized banks shut for the day, and Dow Jones Newswires reported that the Indian factory of German engineering group Bosch had shut "for certain national issues."

Source: Global Times


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