Indian coal workers call off strike

Miners opposed to opening up coal industry to private companies end strike after crisis talks with government.

    Indian coal workers call off strike
    Supplies to nearly 100 coal-fired power plants had already been hit [AP]

    A strike by coal miners in India opposed to privatising the coal industry has been called off, with the government and the unions reaching an agreement after a crisis meeting, officials said.

    The strike had entered a second day on Wednesday after talks with the government failed, sparking fears of power cuts in the energy-hungry nation.

    "The strike has been called off," Lakhan Lal Mahato, leader of the All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC), said after the meeting with Coal Minister Piyush Goyal that lasted for over six hours, the Press Trust of India reported. 

    About half a million workers were taking part in the strike.

    Supplies to nearly 100 coal-fired power plants had already been hit, raising fears of widespread disruption to power supplies.

    Modi reforms

    Prime Minister Narendra Modi wants to open India's mostly state-run coal mines to private investors as part of wide-ranging reforms to boost the economy.

    In October, Modi's government approved an ordinance to allow auctions of coal mines to private companies, as well as permitting commercial mining at some point in the future.

    The strike had been called by five coal unions representing some 3.5 million workers amid fears that any move to privatise the coal industry could lead to job cuts.

    Coal provides nearly 60 percent of India's electricity needs.

    Blackouts are common, especially during peak summer months, with demand from a growing middle class increasing. 

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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