Bharat Bandh: Violence in Bengal, disruptions in Kerala, Punjab, banking hit all over
The one day Bharat Bandh called by 10 trade unions and some student organisations was peaceful in most parts of the country barring West Bengal. Daily life was also affected in Left ruled Kerala and parts of Punjab, were union workers stopped road and rail traffic.
The bandh call coupled with protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the National Register for Citizens (NRC) that are going on in various parts of the country. Protests were held by students at various campuses including at Delhi University, Jadhavpur University, Mumbai University, IIT-Kanpur, IIT-Mumbai, IIT-Ahmedabad, Punjabi University, Patiala and Banaras Hindu University.
Violence and arson was reported from various parts of West Bengal, where buses, a police vehicle and government properties were vandalised by strikers enforcing the 24-hour bandh on Wednesday.
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Major protest was reported from Malda district, where tyres were burnt, government buses ransacked and stones and crude bombs hurled at police, who tried to control the mob. The police then baton-charged the mob, lobbed teargas shells and fired rubber bullets, officials said.
In various parts of the state, railway tracks and roads were blocked, affecting normal life. Violence and rail blockade was reported from East Burdwan, East Midnapore, Cooch Behar districts and from Dum Dum, Jadavpur, Lake Town and Central Kolkata.
In East Midnapore and Jadavpur, the police used baton force to disperse the mob and crude bombs were found in Barasat area of the North 24 Parganas district, police said.
Public transport was not available in most places in the state. However, flight services were normal at Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose International Airport, but train services were partially affected in some sectors of the Sealdah, Howrah and Kharagpur sections due to obstruction by protesters.
In Jhakhand and Chhattisgarh, the impact of the strike was visible in the mining areas and the banking sector.
In northern India, the impact of the strike was seen mostly in Punjab with mixed response in neighbouring Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand.
The activists of several farmers associations asked traders at several places in Congress-ruled Punjab to keep their shops and business establishments closed. Reports of a partial shutdown of shops and other establishments were received from Patiala, Ludhiana, Bathinda, Hoshiarpur, Amritsar Jalandhar and several other places.
With the state-run roadways unions joining the strike, most buses were off roads in Punjab and road and rail traffic was blocked in several places such as Amritsar, Sangrur and Longowal. Most of the public sector banks were also closed.
Students and teachers of Punjabi University in Patiala joined the protest and did not allow others to enter the campus. They were protesting against the Sunday violence at Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi.
There was mixed response to the strike in Uttar Pradesh with no incidents of violence reported. The impact could be seen in industrial towns such as Kanpur, Moradabad and Agra.
Nobel laureate and renowned bio-physicist Michael Levitt was left stranded in a houseboat in Alappuzha on Wednesday when protestors stopped his boat for more than three hours despite the exemption to tourism from the Bandh, which crippled normal life in Kerala.
Similarly, many tourists complained that their vehicles were blocked by supporters of the strike. Many pilgrims for ongoing Sabarimala pilgrimage were also seen stranded.
Vehicular traffic came to a standstill and shops and business establishments remained closed in many parts of the state. In some places it was a forced shutdown, shop owners said. Trade bodies had earlier planned to open their shops but later succumbed to the pressure exerted by the striking unions. No violent incident was reported from the state so far.
The strike had very little impact on the normal life in the Telugu states of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. Except in nationalised banks and public sector undertakings, which remained closed as the employees stayed away from work, there was no major breakdown of any services.
Work came to a standstill at Visakhapatnam Steel Plant (VSP) as over 30,000 employees stayed away from work said a trade union leader. Activists of the Communist Party of India (CPI) and Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPI-M) were prevented by the police from obstructing state-owned RTC bus services at Vijayawada, Guntur, Ongole, Tirupati and Visakhapatnam.
The MPs of the Left parties were among the 800 workers of trade unions arrested in Coimbatore even as the bandh had very little impact in the rest of Tamil Nadu. Strike impact was visible in Kanyakumari and Theni districts. Like other states, banking services were affected in Karnataka.
The impact of the bandh was only visible in the industrial areas of Gujarat, Maharashtra and Rajasthan, where the presence of trade unions is strong, and in the banking sector.
In Gujarat, the impact could be seen in industrial towns of Surat, Rajkot, Vadodara and Mehsana.
While senior trade union leader Amrish Patel claimed industrial production was hit in the state due to the strike, an official of Gujarat Chamber of Commerce and Industry said there were no interruptions or incidents of strike.
In Rajasthan, the impact of the strike was seen in Sikar, Sriganganagar and Hanumangarh districts, where public transport was affected as roadways employees associated with the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) went on strike.
CITU Rajasthan president Ravindra Shukla claimed the strike had been successful and received a good response.
Although the strike did not have much impact on the day to day life in most parts of India, workers from the mining sector, power and banking sector participated in the shutdown in large numbers.
Chairman of All India Power Engineers Federation (AIPEF), Shailendra Dubey said about 1.5 million power sector employees and engineers, including 25,000 in UP, were on strike, calling it a success.
Power sector employees are protesting against the Centre’s proposed amendments to the Electricity Act as well as other privatisation policies, which they say are against the interest of the consumers and employees.
Mining activities in Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh were affected due to the general strike on Wednesday, claimed trade union leaders, while officials asserted that situation was normal in the sector.
The strike called by four national trade unions in the coal belt on Wednesday evoked mixed response at the collieries of Bharat Coking Coal Limited (BCCL) and Eastern Coalfield Limited (ECL) in Jharkhand.
The joint front of the trade unions convener, AK Jha, said production and dispatch of coal were badly affected and production fell by 60 to 70%. He said the miners went on strike after marking their attendance therefore even if the management claims miners’ presence, production and dispatch were hampered badly.
As per the official record, per day coal production is around 70,000 ton to one lakh ton in mines of BCCL. Similarly, per day production of coal in ECL mines stand around 80,000 to 1.20 lakh ton.
Director (personnel), Bharat Coking Coal Limited (BCCL), RS Mahapatra refused to comment on the success or failure of the strike and claimed attendance of miners and production of coal was normal in all shifts on Wednesday.
The strike in the coal mines of South Eastern Coalfields Limited (SECL) located in Korba district of Chhattisgarh had mixed effect but the strike in Manikpur project had wide impact with operations from coal production to coal dispatch remaining completely closed. The strike saw mixed impact in Gevra and Deepka mining area of Korba district.
Trade unions are protesting proposed changes in the labour laws.