Nine unions representing 1.5 million bank workers launched a two-day strike on Aug. 28 to demand an end to bank privatizations. The bank workers are also demanding better pensions. Sixty thousand bank branches across India were shut for the two days. The strike paralyzed all banking activity, including the foreign-exchange markets. Unions estimate that $16.6 billion of transactions were stopped. The Indian government is planning to set up private banks across the country, including privatizing banks in rural areas. "We do not need any more banks in the country," said All India Bank Employees Association General Secretary S. S. Dhopeshwarkar.
The strike provoked rage from the business elite. "Such strikes are uncalled for," quipped Ram Gandhi, president of the Indian Merchants Chamber. "With the advent of globalization we cannot afford so many bank holidays and bank strikes." The IMC is calling for the government to declare bank strikes illegal.
India's government opened banking to privatization as part of its International-Monetary-Fund-backed "free market reforms" in 1991. The union has threatened further actions if its demands are not met.
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