A trade union leader died in Haryana and vandals ran riot in Noida in a violent start to the two-day Bharat bandh, which also saw banking services and public transport severely hit across the country on Wednesday.
Narinder Singh, 55, All India Trade Union Congress treasurer, was hit by a bus he was trying to stop from plying in Ambala. His colleagues later blocked a section of the highway and clashed with police, who ruled the death an accident.
In Noida’s industrial areas, hundreds of factories were vandalised and vehicles — including a fire truck and over a dozen police cars — damaged as workers in the thousands indulged in arson, blocked roads and looted computers and other goods.
Police from Noida, Ghaziabad and Meerut and the Provincial Armed Constabulary were pressed into service and it was evening by the time the situation was brought under control. At the end of the day, 65 people had been arrested.
Factory owners accused the police of ignoring calls for help. “We were locked inside and the mob kept pelting stones. But no policeman came. A PCR van came hours later but fled on seeing the mob,” said a company owner at Hosiery Complex in Phase 2.
"We are conducting raids and looking at CCTV footage. The problem started after a group of workers found out some companies were open in Phase II. They were later joined by goons," said ADG (NCR) OP Singh.
In Delhi, commuters were inconvenienced as autos and taxis joined the strike but Metro and bus — DTC and private cluster — services were unaffected. Functioning of nationalised banks and insurance companies and the income tax department was also hit.
But fuel supply to petrol pumps remained unaffected and the dealers' association said there wouldn't be a problem on Thursday too.
Elsewhere, Kerala and Bihar were hit hard.
As trade unions celebrated the "unprecedented" success of their stir — to protest inflation and the government's economic policies — industry body Assocham raised its estimated loss to the GDP from Rs. 15,000-20,000 crore to Rs. 26,000 crore. Industry sources said the setback to Noida alone could be around Rs. 1,000 crore.
With agency inputs