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India's Government Employees Stage Strike, Defy Court Order - 2004-02-24

Millions of Indian workers have staged a one-day nationwide strike to protest a Supreme Court ban on strikes by government employees.

Tuesday's strike shut down government offices, state-owned banks, schools and public transport in most major cities across the country.

Among the worst hit areas were the communist-ruled eastern state of West Bengal, technology hub, Bangalore, in the south, and the western city of Bombay -- India's commercial center. But there were few visible effects of the strike in the capital, New Delhi.

Union officials said the strike was a total success. But observers said its impact of the one-day strike would be limited since most ports and airports continued to operate.

Last year, India's Supreme Court ruled a strike by government workers was illegal because it hurt the country's economy and caused inconvenience to its citizens. The court said disputes between the government and its employees should be resolved through arbitration or court orders. It also allowed the government to fire employees who go on strike.

Union leaders say the right to strike is a fundamental right of workers, and that government employees strike only as a last resort.

Some information for this report provided by AP and Reuters.