India coal strike the biggest industrial action since 1977

India coal strike the biggest industrial action since 1977

Coal miners in India. (Image by Biswarup Ganguly | WikiMedia Commons)

Unionized coal miners in India began Tuesday a five-day strike to protest plans to commercialize mining of the commodity, in a move said to be the largest industrial action for any sector since 1977.

Five major trade unions shut down production at all coalfields of Coal India Limited, despite the company’s plea to reconsider as the national power grid could be severely hit if the fossil fuel is not delivered on time to various plants across the country.

The strike, ZeeNews reports, is likely to cost 1.5 million tonnes of lost daily output or about US$325 million (Rs 1500 crore).

India is the world's third-largest producer of coal, behind China and the U.S. Yet it relies heavily on imports because of mismanagement and an onerous bureaucracy in coal exploration, production and power generation. As a result, nearly a quarter of India's 1.2 billion people have no electricity, according to the World Bank.

The company affected by the strike, state-owned Coal India Limited (CIL), accounts for about 80% of the country's total output.