School teachers were among those workers taking part in a massive general strike in India on Friday. As well as demanding a living wage, the strikers were protesting government 'reforms' which would see public services being hiked off to private and often overseas companies. Further demands are for a comprehensive national health service and social security.
Bank employees, transportation workers, miners and construction workers were among those on strike as well as school teachers. At least ten union confederations took part and according to their leaders, 180 million people were involved in the one day action.
The Indian government is planning to raise $8.3 billion in privatisation of state companies, in a country where corporations are already making a killing in for example IT and extractive industries.
Regular readers of this site will know that Indian teachers have a long history of struggle for public education, in the face of privatisation, chronic underfunding, precarious work and all aspects of corporate 'reform'. According to Education Professor Krishna Kumar, the government needs to recruit 1.3 million teachers if it is to fulfill its constitutional commitment to provide free education for all. Instead thousands of posts are vacant, others are filled with temporary contracts and 'our brightest young people want to avoid this profession as they know how vulnerable it is.'
The huge turnout in the general strike marks a new stage in the struggle in India for economic and social justice.