INDIA (CBS/RTV/ANI) -- Trade unions strike turned violent as the workers set several vehicles on fire and vandalized business firms to protest against high fuel prices, while the transport and the banking services were severely hit across India.
Violence erupted in India's northern Noida city on the first day of a two-day strike on Wednesday (February 20) as workers, angry about high fuel prices in particular, turned to vandalism.
Several vehicles including fire tender and cars were set on fire and the workers damaged the factories and broke the windowpanes.
Protesting members of the trade unions also came out in droves in Siliguri district of India's eastern West Bengal state and burnt the effigy of Indian Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh to vent their anger against anti-labor policies.
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.
However, India's Labor Minister, Mallikarjun Kharge in New Delhi assured that the demands of the trade unions would be considered as soon as there is improvement in the economic situation of the country.
"I have already told and requested all the trade union leaders not to go on strike and withdraw their strike. We will consider their demands as and when the financial position improves," said Kharge.
As a mark of their protest, members of a trade union also blocked the railway tracks in India's eastern Bhubaneshwar city, causing inconvenience to the railway passengers.
Parliament begins its budget session on Thursday (February 21) and the government is to present its expenditure plan for fiscal 2013-14 (April-March) next week.
Several officials have told Reuters the government will slash a public spending target by up to 10 percent to avoid a sovereign credit downgrade, even though that will not go down well in a high inflation environment.
A leader of India's main opposition, Bharatiya Janata Party, Prakash Javadekar slammed the government for not addressing the problem of inflation and the workers.
"There have been 10 strikes of this mammoth scale by the workers and government is shamelessly not addressing the problem in real sense, and that is why we condemn the government's anti-labor policies," said Javadekar.
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.
The government is also on the back foot over accusations by Italian police that officials from defense group Finmeccanica paid bribes in a $750 million deal to sell India VIP helicopters manufactured by its Anglo-Italian subsidiary AgustaWestland.
Public transport was not running, banks were closed and most shops and offices kept their shutters down in India's eastern Kolkata city.
A local, Shubodip Bhaduri said that the office goers also faced the brunt of the strike.
"The number of buses plying on the roads is less and the mini-buses are not available. The office goers are facing the problem. I work at the airport and I am facing problem in commuting. That's why I could not go to office today," said Bhaduri.
The banking sector came to a grinding halt, as all the banks in India's eastern Patna city remained closed.
Banking services were also disrupted as thousands of bank employees joined the strike.
The Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry said on Tuesday (February 19) that the two-day strike was expected to cause an estimated loss of 150 billion-200 billion rupees, hurting sectors such as banking, insurance and transport.