NEW DELHI (AP) — Millions of public sector workers across India went on strike Friday to protest economic reforms, saying the government's plan for raising the country's minimum wage for unskilled workers did not go far enough.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government says the reforms, including opening some sectors to private and foreign investment, are needed to boost growth.
About a dozen of the country's labor unions said the government should guarantee both social security and health care for all, and should be hiking the minimum wage to double what it is offering in order to keep up with inflation. Some states including Kerala and the territory of Delhi already have minimum wage levels that are higher than the new monthly target of 9,100 rupees to 13,598 rupees, or $136 to $204.
"The strike is on. We are getting good response," said Tapan Kumar Sen, head of the Center for Indian Trade Unions, according to the Press Trust of India news agency.
The unions are also unhappy about government plans to pull investments from public services and allow more foreign direct investment in certain sectors.
While the capital of New Delhi and the financial hub of Mumbai saw little impact from the one-day strike, normal life was severely affected elsewhere, including Kerala, where the state government led by the opposition Communist Party of India backed the protest. In badly affected regions, public transportation and government offices were shut down.
Union officials said about 180 million workers — including state bank employees, school teachers, postal workers, miners and construction workers — were participating, but the figure could not be independently verified.
The strike did not affect private banks or businesses.