India's Leftist Trade Unions Call Strike

A nationwide strike called by leftist trade unions to protest against rising prices of essential goods and the government's economic policies disrupted normal life in several parts of India on Thursday.

The unions, which have a sizable presence in areas such as coal mining, banking, ports and railways, are blaming the government for not doing enough rein in inflation and protect the interests of the labor class.

Almost all flights were grounded at the international airport in Calcutta, capital of leftist-ruled West Bengal state, the CNN-IBN television station reported.

Click here to visit's Asia center.

Several trains passing through the state also were delayed because of the strike. Shops, schools and offices remained shut across West Bengal and the southern state of Kerala — which is also ruled by a leftist coalition, the Press Trust of India news agency said.

There were no reports of violence, however. Minor disruptions in transportation services were reported from other parts of the country as well, the PTI report said.

In Mumbai, India's financial and entertainment capital, many trains used for the city's rail commuter network were running late, it said.

In New Delhi, lawmakers from leftist parties, which support the governing coalition in Parliament, assembled outside the legislature.

They displayed placards and chanted slogans, demanding a doubling of the minimum wage to $110 and legislation to guarantee employment to the jobless in cities. They also protested the government's plans to ease the limit on foreign direct investment in insurance and telecommunications.

Later, the leftist lawmakers staged a walkout from both houses of Parliament.

"If the government doesn't listen to our demands there will be bigger protests," said Gurudas Dasgupta.

Despite their difference on economic policies, the leftist parties continue to give parliamentary support to the ruling coalition because they want to keep the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party out of power.

Click here to visit's Asia center.