Protesters set cars, truck on fire in strike

NEW DELHI Wed Feb 20, 2013 5:22pm IST

Workers from various trade unions shout slogans as they try to block a road during a strike in Mumbai February 20, 2013. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui

Workers from various trade unions shout slogans as they try to block a road during a strike in Mumbai February 20, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Danish Siddiqui

Stocks

   

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Protesting workers destroyed vehicles and damaged factories near New Delhi on Wednesday at the beginning of a two-day strike called by major trade unions over high prices.

About 400 striking workers threw stones at factories in the industrial hub of Noida, about 16 km (10 miles) east of the capital, to force them to close, a Reuters witness said.

Police baton-charged the workers to stop the violence. Seven cars and the fire truck were burnt out and a dozen cars smashed up.

"In my own factory, mobs climbed the gates and walls, broke and carried away computers, and damaged the external facade of the building," factory owner Pankaj Sadh told NDTV.

Violence erupted elsewhere in the country as workers, angry about high fuel prices in particular, tried to keep vehicles off the roads. One union member was killed in Ambala, media said.

Offices and factories were shut in many places and transport was disrupted. However, New Delhi and the business centre, Mumbai, were mostly unaffected and financial markets were open.

The strike comes as the beleaguered government prepares to present an austerity budget to parliament and as it weathers a corruption scandal in a big arms deal.

Parliament begins its budget session on Thursday and the government is to present its expenditure plan for fiscal 2013/14 (April-March) next week.

Several officials have told Reuters the government plans to slash a public spending target by up to 10 percent to avoid a sovereign credit downgrade, even though that may create more economic pain in the short run.

The government is also on the back foot over accusations by Italian police that officials from defence group Finmeccanica paid bribes in a $750 million deal to sell India VIP helicopters manufactured by its Anglo-Italian subsidiary AgustaWestland.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who is grappling with the worst economic slowdown in a decade and faces a general election early next year, had asked the unions to call off the strike, but they refused.

"We want the government to take note of this," said Akhtar Hussain, vice-president of the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh. "They think they can turn a blind eye to our demands, but they must know that enough is enough. We need our demands to be met. The government needs to be more serious."

"HELPLESS"

The strike also hit iron ore and coal production in the resource-rich state of Chhattisgarh.

"Trade unions leaders have forced dozens of workers to stop iron ore mining in protest against violations of labour laws and high inflation," an official of NMDC Ltd (NMDC.NS), India's biggest iron ore producer, told Reuters by telephone.

By noon, the company halted 60 percent of production at mines in the Dantewada district, where it produces about 60,000 tonnes of iron ore a day, officials said.

The strike also affected coal production at a mine owned by a Coal India Ltd (COAL.NS) unit in Gevra district, where workers stayed off the job in protest.

The Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry said on Tuesday the two-day strike was expected to cause a loss of 150 billion-200 billion rupees, hurting sectors such as banking, insurance and transport.

Thousands of rail and road passengers were stranded in Odisha and Bihar as protesters blocked the movement of trains, buses and auto rickshaws.

"Protesters are squatting on the railway tracks or capturing the locomotives. We're just helpless," Amitabh Prabhakar, a public relations officer for Indian Railways' east-central zone, said by telephone.

(Additional reporting by D. Jose in THIRUVANANTHAPURAM, Jatindra Dash in BHUBANESHWAR and Sujeet Kumar in RAIPUR; Writing by Arup Roychoudhury; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan and Robert Birsel)

Comments (0)
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.

  • Most Popular
  • Most Shared

Economic Pulse

REUTERS SHOWCASE

NSEL Fraud

NSEL Fraud

Govt orders Financial Tech to absorb NSEL, liabilities  Full Article 

Stalemate

Stalemate

WTO prepares for crisis talks as India keeps veto on global deal.  Full Article 

Deal Talk

Deal Talk

Smartphone repair company B2X steps up expansion with Indian deal.  Full Article 

Earnings Season

Earnings Season

HDFC Bank eyes pickup in corporate credit.  Full Article 

JLR China

JLR China

JLR sees 20 percent growth in China sales this year - exec  Full Article 

Iron Ore Imports

Iron Ore Imports

JSW Steel to boost iron ore imports by up to 80 percent.  Full Article 

Pollution Levels

Pollution Levels

Delhi braces for worst air quality this Diwali week.  Full Article 

Remembering Margerie

Remembering Margerie

Total’s "Big Moustache"- bon vivant, deal-maker and risk-taker .  Full Article 

Reuters India Mobile

Reuters India Mobile

Get the latest news on the go. Visit Reuters India on your mobile device.  Full Coverage