Socialist Party
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16 January 2019

India: biggest general strike ever

New Socialist Alternative (CWI India)

Why did 200 million workers strike on 8-9 January?

The International Labour Organisation says 18.3 million Indians were unemployed in 2017. 1.3 million young people become unemployed every month. In March 2018, 28 million people applied for 90,000 railway jobs.

India has one of the world's highest suicide rates for youth aged 15 to 29. In 2016, 9,474 students died by suicide - almost 26 every day. Over 75,000 students have died by suicide in India over the 10 years up to 2016.

India's capitalist class has failed to bring an end to the brutal and deeply entrenched caste system. 2,920 'communal incidents' were reported over four years - 389 were killed and 8,890 injured.

They have not only let loose their goons to lynch, kill and terrorise Muslims, Dalits and other oppressed minorities, but even create an aura of great achievements and in that way polarise society on communal and sectarian lines.

The number of millionaires increased by 50,000 2013-2014. A recent report said there could be almost a million millionaires by 2023.

Rural India, home to 66% of the population, still languishes in poverty. The highest paid member of three-quarters of rural households earns just 5,000 rupees (54) a month.

For more than two years, no concrete steps have been taken to implement a promised 164 minimum wage. We demand a living minimum wage of 25,000 rupees.

Recently, more than 300,000 farmers marched against Modi's failure to provide much-needed financial compensation, the total write-off of farm loans, minimum price for agricultural produce plus cheap and affordable credit.

'Lesser evilism'

The strike is raising hope that the hated Modi premiership may come to an end in this year's elections.

But communist parties and others are yet again advocating the disastrous policy of 'lesser evilism', and promoting a congress-led coalition as an alternative to the right-wing, authoritarian and communal Modi.

Capitalism has failed to solve problems of poverty, illiteracy, squalor, disease, unemployment, landlessness, housing and climate change. It continues discrimination by caste, class, gender, sexuality and national identity.

Our members distributed thousands of leaflets (and ran out), in English and Kannada, on the days of the general strike.

This strike can help build an independent working-class-led socialist alternative, allying with all the oppressed sections of society.