India man loses ear during strike violence

Indian employees stand near posters at the entrance to a bank during a two-day strike opposing the current UPA government’s economic policies in Kolkata Many banks were shut on the second day of the strike, including in West Bengal

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A government employee's ear has been cut off in India's West Bengal state after he did not come to work during the country's ongoing two-day strike.

Hazrat Omar had been absent on Wednesday and was attacked on Thursday when he returned to work.

The strike has been called by trade unions to protest against the government's economic policies.

The unions are also protesting against price rise, inflation and alleged violation of labour laws.

Mr Omar alleged that his attackers were members of the state's ruling Trinamul Congress Party, which is opposing the strike. Party officials have denied this.

On Thursday, television channels showed photos of Mr Omar at a hospital with a bandage around his ears and head.

The incident took place in Debipur village in Murshidabad district.

Reports said Mr Omar has not yet lodged a formal complaint with the police.

The government in West Bengal state had earlier warned workers not to skip work during the strike and the state has remained largely unaffected by the shutdown.

Transport disrupted

Elsewhere in India, public-sector banks and many government offices were shut on Thursday on the second day of the strike.

Banking services were hit with ATMs running out of cash in many cities and public transport was disrupted.

In the capital, Delhi, auto-rickshaws and taxis were off the roads, but metro services were functioning normally.

The western city of Mumbai was largely unaffected and financial markets were open.

Security was tight in Noida, a Delhi suburb, where on Wednesday angry workers attacked factories and set ablaze 25 vehicles, including a fire truck.

Police said more than 100 people had been held in connection with the violence.

On Thursday, police patrolled the streets of Noida and a large number of policemen were deployed in areas identified as sensitive.

Schools and colleges were closed in the area as a precaution, officials said.

In the northern city of Jammu, workers, carrying bright red flags, participated in a rally on Thursday.

All major unions are protesting against government moves to open retail, insurance and aviation sectors to foreign investment and increase prices of subsidised fuel and cooking gas.

A one-day strike against reforms last September shut down some cities and cost Asia's third-largest economy millions of dollars in lost business.

The government's "big bang" reforms are aimed at reviving a flagging economy, as well as avoiding the threat of a downgrade in India's credit rating.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh says the reforms will "help strengthen our growth process and generate employment in these difficult times".

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