Workers and working people from all sectors of the Indian economy participated enthusiastically in the All India General Strike of January 8, 2020. They were responding to the call of the central trade unions, the All India federations, and to hundreds of trade unions organising workers in different cities, industries and services, and amongst the rural workers.
Successive governments have imposed the capitalist program of globalization through privatization and liberalization on the Indian people since 1991. This is an anti-social and anti-national program. The opposition of workers, peasants and working people to this program has been mounting year after year. The strike of January 8, 2020 was the 19th All India General Strike organised by workers, since the launch of the liberalization program.
According to reports received by Mazdoor Ekta Lehar, an estimated 25 crore workers and working people all over the country participated in the strike. Their demands included minimum wages of Rs 21,000 per month, an end to contract labour, minimum pension of Rs 10,000 per month, halt to privatization, a modern universal public distribution system to provide foodgrains, pulses, and other essentials for all; a public procurement system to purchase all the produce of peasants at remunerative prices, waiver of debts of the peasantry, education and healthcare for all. Workers also demanded that the government stop amending labour laws in favour of the capitalists.
These demands are in the interests of the whole of society. This is why the strike received enthusiastic response not only from unionized workers, it received massive response from peasants and agricultural workers, as well as university students.
Reports coming in from various states indicate that the strike was complete in the country’s massive public sector across sectors, such as steel, coal, other mining, defence production, port & dock, oil & natural gas, telecom, power generation, etc. Ancillary industries also were mostly shut.
Besides this, workers in the private sector across engineering, automobile and components, telecom, metals, textiles and garments, power and many other sectors were on strike.
15 lakh power sector workers, including engineers, participated in the strike under the banner of the All India Power Employees Federation. They were protesting against the proposed amendments to the Electricity Act as well as other privatisation policies of the government, which are against the interest of the consumers and employees.
Banking operations came to a grinding halt as the workers of Public Sector Banks and many Private sector banks joined the strike to protest against the privatisation of banking.
Petroleum sector workers participated in the strike in a massive way to express their opposition to the government’s decision to privatise HPCL, BPCL, and other petroleum companies. They took out marches and held gate meetings in many towns.
Leaders of coal workers unions said 600,000 workers, both permanent and temporary, at coal mines participated in the strike.
Farmers groups led by the All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee gave the call to farmers organisations across the country to make the All India Strike a success. A joint platform of 175 farmers and agricultural workers organisations also extended support and called for a simultaneous rural strike.. In many rural districts across the country, farmers, agricultural workers and youth organised rail and rasta rook of rail and road transport.
In addition, road transport workers of many state owned road transport corporations participated in the strike, ensuring that road transportation was crippled in these states. Rail and road transport was severely affected in states like West Bengal, Bihar and Punjab amongst others.
Students in over 60 universities and institutions, and their affiliated colleges, too, observed a strike with thousands joining protest marches after boycotting classes.
In addition to the long standing demands of workers and peasants, the workers and working people demanded the immediate repeal of the communal Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and withdrawal by the government of its proposal for a National Register of Citizens (NRC). Workers also condemned the state organised repression of students in Jamia Millia Islamia, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Aligarh Muslim University, Jadavpur and other universities.
Thousands of workers, farmers and students came onto the streets and organised rallies and dharnas. The banking, insurance, port and petroleum sectors saw complete shut down while workers of textiles and weaving industries in Coimbatore and Tirupur districts participated in large numbers. Hundreds of activists were arrested for organizing rail and road rokos across the state.
The farmers and agricultural workers organised a rural strike in support of their demands. Students expressed their opposition to the privatization of higher education and youth came out demanding jobs
Workers unity was reflected in the powerful response to the call for General Strike. Twenty six unions, working in the industrial townships of the state, participated in the strike. Thousands of Asha workers gathered at Azad Maidan in Mumbai, alongside of bank workers and workers of other sectors. (see report on Maharashtra)
Thousands of activists took to the streets of Patna and all the districts of Bihar, to make the January 8 strike a success. Big marches were taken out everywhere. Dharnas were organised to block traffic and train and road services were brought to a halt. Banks, post offices, electricity offices, etc remained closed. Auto rickshaws were off the road in Patna.
Thousands of workers in Delhi NCR downed tools on Wednesday as part of the nationwide general strike. As a result, production in factories in and around the national capital was disrupted.
In Sahibabad industrial area of Ghaziabad district, production in thousands of small and medium establishments was severely affected. Among those that were hit by the strike were Central Electronics Limited (CEL), a public sector undertaking, whose workers observed a complete shutdown, protesting against its strategic sale.
Rallies were organised in different industrial belts of Delhi like Okhla Industrial Area, Wazirpur, Narela, Bawana, Jahangirpuri, Patparganj and Shahdara.
In the Gurugram-Manesar-Bawal industrial belt, thousands of workers came onto the streets to express their anger at the attacks on the working class and people. Automobile companies like Honda and Munjal Showa were brought to a grinding halt.
Majority of workers protesting in this belt were contractual workers. The struggle of the contractual staff in Manesar is being led by the casual workforce of Honda Motorcycle and Scooter India (HMSI), who have been braving the cold and staying put for more than 50 days to protest against the retrenchments by the management.
At Shivam Auto Tech, another major name in Manesar, the workers demonstrated outside the plant against the forced “lockdown” by the management.
About 40,000 employees of Maha Gujarat Bank Employee Association participated in the strike. All India Railwaymen’s Federation, Western Railway Employee Union, Income Tax Employees Federation, Income Tax Gazetted Officers Association (Gujarat Circle), Gujarat Federation of Trade Union (GFTU), Gujarat Majdoor Sangh (GMS), Mazdoor Adhikar Abhiyan took out rallies at
GFTU took out rally in Ahmedabad of workers of Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation, Gujarat Transport Service, Gujarat Industrial Security Force, Employees of Madhya Bhojan, daily wage earners under MnREGA, workers of many private companies.