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Monday, Oct 21, 2019

‘Government arrogantly ignoring workers’: Trade unions begin two-day Bharat bandh

Millions of workers from the organised and unorganised sectors started a 48-hour national strike on Tuesday to protest against what they call the Narendra Modi government’s anti-worker policies and the issue of unemployment among others.

india Updated: Jan 08, 2019 21:07 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Trade Union activists protesting while courting arrest during two day long Bharat Bandh called by Trade Unions, at Hazra in Kolkata on Tuesday 8th January 2019.
Trade Union activists protesting while courting arrest during two day long Bharat Bandh called by Trade Unions, at Hazra in Kolkata on Tuesday 8th January 2019.(ARIJIT SEN / Hindustan Times)

Protesters blocked roads and stopped trains in many parts of the country on Tuesday as ten central trade unions called a two-day strike to protest the Narendra Modi government’s “anti-worker policies” and rising unemployment among others.

Violence was reported from West Bengal, Odisha and Kerala as agitators clashed with police while enforcing the shutdown through road and railway blockades.

Members of the trade unions blocked railway lines in West Bengal’s Howrah, Madhyamgram, Hasnabad-Bongaon, Krishnagar, Duttapukur and Lakshmikantapur stations. At Sodepur in North 24 Parganas, protesters threw banana leaves on the overhead wires to disrupt train movement. Trains were also blocked in Samudragarh station of East Burdwan district.

Several leaders were also detained during the protests in the eastern state.

In Kerala, trains were stopped in Thiruvananthapuram, Tripunithura and Shoranur railway stations. Venad Express, which runs from the state capital to Shoranur Junction daily, was delayed by more than one hour as agitators squatted on tracks, blocking its route, and raised slogans. Jan Shatabdi and Raptisagar Express were the other trains which were stopped.

Follow live updates on Bharat bandh here

Shops at many places in the state capital Thiruvananthapuram were open and as union leaders had assured businesses they would not force the closure of shops and target traders. The Kerala Vyapari Vyavasayi Ekopana Samithi has said it would open its commercial establishments.

Train services were also hit at many places in Odisha including Bhubaneswar, Cuttack, Puri, Balasore, Jaleswar, Bhadrak, Sambalpur, Berhampur and Paradip, police said.

Over a dozen trains were delayed due to blockade of railway tracks by strike supporters, leaving a large number of passengers stranded at many places, they said.

Shops, markets, business establishments, educational institutions and offices remained closed, while vehicular movement virtually came to a grinding halt across the state during the strike.

Mixed response

The shutdown had a mixed response in Karnataka on, with government offices and bus services functioning normally in most parts of the state.

“Thousands of trade union members and workers have joined the strike demanding a minimum wage of Rs 18,000 per month and abolishing the contract system among other demands,” All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC) leader MD Harigovind said, according to news agency IANS.

Even as thousands of industrial workers, labourers and Anganwadi workers took to the streets of Bengaluru and gathered in front of the Town Hall demanding labour-friendly laws, government offices and bus and metro services remained largely unaffected.

Most of 2,000-odd IT firms and 750 multi-national companies that Bengaluru is home to were open.

Schools and colleges across the state, however, remained shut and exams scheduled were put off. Many commercial establishments and shops, too, remained closed in support of the strike.

A senior leader of Labour Progressive Union (LPF) said the strike received a mixed response in Tamil Nadu.

“Members of our affiliated unions have not attended duty. Nearly 50% of the bus services in Chennai are not plying. In other cities, about 30-40% buses are on the roads operated by members of the ruling party union,” LPF General Secretary M. Shanmugam told IANS.

He said the response to the strike was positive from the unorganised sector like construction workers and others.

“The response for the strike call is good in industrial estates in Sriperumbudur and others. In some continuous process industries where shutdown is not possible like the power plants, workers are holding demonstrations,” Shanmugam said.

Asked about the absence of difference between the Congress and BJP in their economic policies, Shanmugam said: “The Congress would at least listen to us and act. But BJP does not listen to the workers.”

Banking and insurance services in Tamil Nadu too were affected as the staff there is also striking work.

Inter-state bus services to Kerala and Karnataka were terminated at the border to prevent any untoward incidents.

Charter of demands

At least ten central trade unions, except the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh-affiliated Bhartiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS), are participating in the strike. The unions striking include Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC), All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC), Hind Mazdoor Sabha (HMS), Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), the workers’ arm of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and All India United Trade Union Centre (AIUTUC), among others.

Bhoomi Adhikar Andolan, a powerful platform of farmers’ bodies, has lent support to the strike, which may help trade unions penetrate rural areas as well. Student and teacher organisations of various universities have also declared their support to the strike, the unions have said.

Banking services are also affected as the All India Bank Employees Association (AIBEA) and Bank Employees Association (AIBEA) and Bank Employees Federation of India has informed the Indian Banks’ Association (IBA) of the two-day nationwide strike.

The trade unions have alleged in a joint statement that the government undermined tripartism and continued its “aggressive attack with arrogance on the lives and livelihood of the working people”.

The unions are also opposed to the proposed amendments in Trade Union Act, 1926, saying they are irrational and extremely damaging to the independent functioning of unions.

The central trade unions had given the call for a nation-wide strike during a convention held in September last year.

They accused the government of “arrogantly ignoring” the 12-point Charter of Demands on minimum wage, universal social security, workers’ status and including pay and facilities for the scheme workers, against privatisation of public and government sector including financial sectors.

(With agency inputs)

First Published: Jan 08, 2019 09:48 IST

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