India just passed a historic milestone – its first General Strike. A coalition of eleven unions called the 24-hour action which shut down government offices, businesses, banks and transport services in cities across the country. Strikers denounced the government and demanded, among other things, improved labour laws and a minimum wage.

Some areas were harder hit than others. Kolkatta, according to reports, was almost entirely shut down, while much of Bengal saw ‘business-as-usual’. At least a hundred people have been arrested, according to one union, but there have not been any reports of serious violence (though one party office was ransacked). In general, English-language coverage has been spotty and fairly slanted.

This makes a dramatic statement about the spread of discontent around the world. Mass action on this scale in the world’s second most populous country says a lot. India has been “developing” rapidly in the past two decades, with an enormous number of First World jobs flowing in to take advantage of their low wages and relatively skilled workers, but large parts of the population have suffered in the upheavals. If this trend continues, we may be forced to offer the Indians who do so much of our work a tiny fraction more of what we used to receive for it. Is a minimum wage really so much to ask?

Solidarity, India.

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