A massive labour strike has shut down schools and public transport in parts of India

Image: Reuters/Rupak De Chowdhuri
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For two days, millions of workers are going on a strike against the Narendra Modi government in India.

Up to 10 central trade unions, comprising around 150 million employees of banks, public transport units, factories, and government companies, are protesting what they describe as the “anti-labour” policies of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government. Their complaints include a painful lack of job growth—the opposite of what Modi promised when he came to power—and rising prices, besides the mergers of struggling state-run firms.

Public sector bank workers were on strike just a few weeks ago, in December 2018, pushing back against the government’s decision to merge Dena Bank with Vijaya Bank and Bank of Baroda. Today (Jan. 08), they’re joined by farmers, who have repeatedly taken to the streets in past few months against the government’s failure to address rural distress.

Across India, public transport has been disrupted, most state-run banks are closed, and schools and colleges are also shut. Here’s how the strike is playing out in various states:

West Bengal

A day before the strike, chief minister Mamata Banerjee said the state would not be supporting the bandh. A government notification reportedly barred employees from taking leave on Jan. 08 or 09, the days of the strike. Additional buses were scheduled to ply on the roads and extra police forces have reportedly been deployed to prevent any violence.

On the morning of Jan. 08, though, protesters blocked the main railway line at Howrah in Kolkata, and the police detained several members of the the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPM). Clashes between members of the CPM and the Trianmool Congress (TMC) were reported from the district of Asannsol.


Schools and colleges are closed in the eastern state, whose Biju Janata Dal-led government is supporting the strike. Protesters have obstructed the movement of traffic in the state capital of Bhubaneswar.


The Auto Taxi Union, Delhi, is one of unions that has joined the transport strike, demanding better wages, among other things. Members of the All India Central Council of Trade Unions also held a protest in the Patparganj industrial area against privatisation in the public sector.


Over 33,000 employees of the state’s transport operator BEST have launched an indefinite strike in Mumbai, demanding a renewal of expired salary agreements and improved bonuses, among other things. With buses off the roads, the strike is expected to affect 2.5 million commuters. The national strike is also likely to hit the services of government offices and post offices in the state.

Employees of Maharashtra’s power distribution company, MSEDCL, are also going on strike against privatisation, though arrangements have reportedly been made to ensure that power generation and transmission aren’t affected.


Nearly all state-run institutions are shut and many schools are to be closed on Jan. 08 and 09, with some colleges even postponing examinations on account of the strike. The state transport services, KSRTC and BMTC, as well as most autos, are participating in the strike, though the metro is scheduled to run as normal in Bengaluru and Ola and Uber cabs are available. At least one incident of vandalism has been reported so far, with a bus reportedly being pelted with stones in Bengaluru.


On the morning of Jan. 08, protesters blocked trains at the Thiruvananthapuram Central station, prompting several delays. State-run buses are reportedly facing an acute staff shortage as a result of the strikes, and private buses, taxis, and auto rickshaws are also off the roads, leaving many commuters stranded. Schools and colleges have said they will be closed on Jan. 08 and 09.