India: "the biggest general strike in independent times"

On Wednesday, millions of workers in India went on a national strike protesting against government plans to privatise state-owned firms. The one-day stoppage heavily affected sectors such as banking, insurance, oil, power, coal mining, telecommunications, engineering and textiles.

On Wednesday, millions of workers in India went on a national strike protesting against government plans to privatise state-owned firms. The one-day stoppage heavily affected sectors such as banking, insurance, oil, power, coal mining, telecommunications, engineering and textiles.

Public transport in Calcutta ground to halt and brought the city to a virtual standstill.

The strike was called by trade unions including the All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC), and the Centre for Indian Trade Unions (CITU), according to whom at least 40 million workers participated in the walk-out.

India’s rightwing government plans to raise 132 billion rupees ($2.75bn) by selling off state-run companies by next year. At the same time it is launching an all-out attack on the labour Code, allowing state-run companies to sack workers.

"They want to privatise everything like it is in America. They want do away with job security - they have no concern about someone who is close to the end of his career," said Ajay Kumar Sharma, a bank worker, to a BBC reporter "There will come a time when all Indian industries will shut down."

The trade unions claimed a resounding success and described the strike as "historic and the biggest-ever in the country after Independence." More than 5,000 workers were arrested while the police resorted to baton-charges in various parts of the country as the workers joined the 24-hour strike.

Big divisions were reported to have opened up inside the government itself, with key ministers, including defence minister George Fernandes and petroleum minister Ram Naik, strongly opposing the sell-off of nationalised oil firms. Despite all this, the majority of the cabinet seems to be standing firm on their plan of counter-reforms.

Yesterday’s massive strike was one in a series that have taken place in the past period. It is further confirmation that a revival of the class struggle in India is under way. Stormy periods lie ahead, and the Indian proletariat, one of the largest in the world, will take its rightful place shoulder to shoulder with its brothers and sisters around the world.

(A more detailed report will follow)