Millions go on strike in India today

India's economy expanded by seven percent in the last quarter making it one of the world's fastest-growing, but violent protests over jobs in the prime minister's own state suggests many are not feeling the benefits. (AFP)

Millions of India's workers have vowed to go on strike on Wednesday against Prime Minister Narendra Modi's ‘anti-labour’ economic policies.

Ten major unions have called the nationwide strike for 24 hours over the government's pro-business initiatives, after recent talks with Finance Minister Arun Jaitley broke down.

Unions are demanding the government dump plans to sell off stakes in state-run companies to boost the public purse and to shutter unproductive factories.

"We are against these anti-labour policies. The government is going to change the laws to benefit the corporates," said Gurudas Dasgupta, secretary of the Indian Trade Union Congress which has 3.6 million members.

"The changes they want to bring are against the working classes. I am very confident of a hugely successful strike," he told AFP.

Workers in the banking, manufacturing, construction and coal mining sectors are among those expected to walk off the job, according to union leaders.

Modi won a landslide election victory last May, promising a string of business-friendly reforms to attract foreign investment and revive Asia's third largest economy.

But the Opposition has blocked flagship tax and land reforms, aggravating investor concerns, while the unions are increasingly angry over the reforms.

Two unions linked to Modi's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party have pulled out of the strike. But hawkers, domestic workers and daily wage labourers from the country's poor informal sector are expected to take part for the first time.

Dharmendra Kumar, president of the Hawkers' Federation, said his union wanted a hike in the monthly minimum wage from Rs.4,800 to Rs.15,000 ($72 to $226) to be extended to the informal sector.

"The Modi government has turned a blind eye towards the problems being faced by the labour class," Kumar said at a news conference.

"The government must rethink its labour policies. Modi has made a mockery of us by telling the world to come and manufacture in India because it has the cheapest labour."

India's economy grew by a slower than expected 7.0 per cent in the first quarter of the financial year and experts warn reforms are needed to at least keep that pace to create jobs for millions of young people.

Previous strikes have shut down cities and cost the Indian economy millions of dollars in lost production.

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