Bharat Bandh day 1: Kerala, Bengal, Punjab, Delhi among others see impact
Bharat Bandh: Several states were affected as the two-day strike began
A two-day nationwide strike - called by a joint forum of central trade unions - kicked off on Monday with banking and transport services hit in several parts of the country. Kerala saw deserted streets, Bengal witnessed protests on train tracks, and the impact was felt in Delhi, Punjabd, Andhra Pradesh and Haryana too. The Bharat Bandh protest, says the Platform of Central Trade Unions and Sectoral Federations and Associations, aims to draw attention to criticism of the government policies, which have been defined as "anti-worker, anti-farmer and anti-national" in a statement. Some lawmakers were also seen backing the protest in parliament.
Here are ten points on the two-day nationwide Bharat Bandh:
1. This is the first major protest that India is witnessing after assembly elections in five states. The BJP was able to retain four of five states - Uttar Pradesh, Manipur, Uttarakhand and Goa - while the AAP won Punjab. The BJP said it won the four states because of its pro-people and pro-development agenda.
2. In Kerala, a majority of government offices remain closed on the first day of the strike. Empty streets defined the start of the protest in the southern state.
3. In Bengal, train tracks were blocked by protesters. Visuals shared by news agency ANI showed Left-backed demonstrators on rail tracks in huge numbers at the Jadavpur Railway Station in Kolkata. The government employees on Sunday had got notification from the state to not miss offices on the two days of the protest.
4. Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh - where there are mining areas - were also affected. There was "a good response in industrial areas of Assam, Haryana, Delhi, West Bengal, Telangana, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Bihar, Punjab, Rajasthan, Goa, Andhra Pradesh and Odisha," Amarjeet Kaur, General Secretary of All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC) told news agency PTI.
5. Earlier she had said that about 20 crore protesters were expected to join the Bharat Bandh call. "We are expecting participation of over 20 crore formal and informal workers with mass mobilisation of workers across the country during the strike on March 28 and 29 to protest against government policies," she said on Sunday.
6. An advisory was issued to all the state government and electricity authorities by the ministry of power on Sunday to ensure 24*7 power supply. "All concerned may be advised to ensure close supervision of their regional network/control area and shall report to the concerned SLDC/ RLDC and NLDC in the event of any contingency... Power supply to essential services such as hospitals, defence, railways etc. should be ensured," it read. Regional and state control rooms have been put on alert.
7. Banking services have been impacted in some parts of the country, including Delhi. The All India Bank Employees' Association on Sunday said the bank union demands the government to stop privatisation of public sector banks and strengthen them. The country's largest lender SBI and other banks have said that their services may get impacted.
8. Speedy recovery of bad loans, higher deposit rates by banks, lower service charges on customers as well as restoration of old pension scheme are some other issues that have been raised by the AIBEA. Employees of public sector banks, private banks, foreign banks, cooperative banks and regional rural banks are expected to join the strike, the association said.
9. Mamata Banerjee government has come under criticism for not backing the protest. "The dispensation is showing its true colours by opposing the strike which has been called to protest against the Narendra Modi regime's policies against workers, farmers and general people," Anand Sahu, Centre of Indian Trade Unions Bengal chief, told PTI.
10. Farmers' body Samyukta Kisan Morcha has also backed the protest call. The Bharat Bandh is also one of the biggest protests since farmers' agitation was called off last year. The farmers are set to hold the next wave of demonstrations in April.
(With inputs from PTI, ANI)