On February 28, over 100 million Indians will join together and walk off the job in what is likely be the largest strike of workers the world has ever seen.
Workers around the world will be standing in solidarity with those fighting for economic justice in India. In Melbourne we invite all those who support worker's rights to join together at Fed Square, the site of several inspiring political actions involving Melbourne's Indian community.
The call for the one-day general strike has been given by all of India's eleven central trade unions and supported by all industrial federations. This strike will affect virtually all major industries in the country. Amongst those on board are public sector banks, port and dock leaders, railways, insurance, road transport, and the energy industry.
The different labor unions have specific demands that they want to achieve with the strike. These include bringing contract workers up to the same level of employee protections as permanent workers, extending the minimum wage to cover the entire population, and countering the attacks on unions.
India, much like Australia and many other parts of the global economy, has been subjected to an aggressive neoliberal re-structuring. The New Economic and Industrial Policies introduced in 1991 has only entrenched the wealth disparity and aggravated the dire poverty experienced by many Indians.
Despite recent year-on-year GDP growth rates of 8% or 9%, more than four in 10 children under five years old are malnourished and many more suffer from stunted growth. In 2010 researchers at Oxford University found that there were more than 410 million people living in poverty in India, more than in the 26 countries of sub-Saharan Africa combined. The poverty has been described as equal to, if not worse than, that of the war-ravaged Democratic Republic of the Congo. This is a stunning indictment of the economic system that in India--one of the so-called 'economic powerhouses' of the developing world.
The neoliberal policies in India, like those in Europe, the United States and Australia, have led to the disappearance of jobs, the erosion of wages and working conditions and attacks on trade union rights. All the while, the number of billionaires in India has grown exponentially. The country has 55 billionaires whose aggregate wealth of $250 billion is equivalent to almost a sixth of the nation’s annual economic output. Simply put, neoliberal economic policy is an open attack on the workers from the bosses.
Despite the many damning statistics and the vigorous lobbying from NGOs and unions, it appears that the Indian political establishment is in no mood to change it's course. It's time for the workers and the oppressed of India to force for their hand and push economic justice. And it's happening!
Join us on February 28 at Federation Square in a spirit of international solidarity and advancing human rights.