INDIAN coalminers vowed to continue strike action against privatisation today following “inconclusive” talks with coal bosses.
Workers entered the second day of nationwide industrial action in protest at Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s bid to sell a further stake in the largely state-owned industry.
The action led by five major trade unions has seen 500,000 miners walk off the job, cutting coal output by 1.5 million tons a day, with 290 of 438 Coal India mines out of action.
“The strike has turned aggressive today. More than 75 per cent of the production has been affected. Most of our mines are badly hit,” a top Coal India official told reporters.
Indian National Mine Workers Federation secretary-general SQ Zama said strikers were “united and will continue with the strike till January 10.”
Talks between unions and ministers turned sour as reports of police using force to break the strike in the north-eastern state of Jarkhand.
Officers baton-charged a picket line in Rajmahal and five workers were apparently arrested at another of the state’s mines.
“They are using the police, the Central Industrial Security Force, contractors and unsocial elements to force the strikers back to work,” All India Trade Union Congress chairman Ramendra Rai charged.
But such provocation only deepened workers’ resolve to stay out, he added.
Indian National Mineworkers’ Federation president Rajendra Singh warned the government that the situation could spiral “out of control” if attacks on striking miners continued.
The Communist Party of India (Marxist) congratulated miners on building “total unity and for a successful strike,” throwing its weight behind opposition to denationalisation plans which it said would encourage illegal and unsafe mining and wage reductions.
Workers are also demanding the extension of social security coverage to subcontracted miners and a reduction of the working week to five days.
Coal India accounts for around 80 per cent of the country’s coal production, which supplies 52 per cent of India’s energy.
Deliveries to more than 100 power plants have already been affected and most plants only have three or four days’ worth of coal reserves, making power cuts likely before the strike ends.