Normalcy hit as trade unions across country protest against Centre
Markets and business establishments were closed and passenger vehicles remained off the streets in some areas of the strike-hit states that included West Bengal, Odisha, Kerala and Maharashtra. Rajasthan and Assam also faced partial impact.Updated: Jan 08, 2019 23:16 IST
Protests spearheaded by trade unions across several states on Tuesday hit transport services and businesses as millions of workers pressed for social security provisions and better wages, among other demands, calling central policies “pro-corporate” and “anti-worker”.
Markets and business establishments were closed and passenger vehicles remained off the streets in some areas of the strike-hit states that included West Bengal, Odisha, Kerala and Maharashtra. Rajasthan and Assam also faced partial impact.
At least six trains were cancelled and many others diverted as workers associated with a group of 10 central trade unions launched the ‘rail and rasta roko’ protest to push their 12-point charter of demands in the two-day protest. The protests come months after thousands of farmers marched to Parliament to highlight the deepening nationwide agrarian crisis. They alleged that Bharatiya Janata Party took an “anti-farmer” stance after coming to power.
“The unprecedented expanse and active participation of the workers in the two-day strike is a clear indication of the extent of anger and resentment of the workers against the neo-liberal policies and the attacks on their working and living conditions perpetrated by the government’s policies,” the Centre of Indian Trade Union (CITU), affiliated to the Communist Party of India, said as the protests were launched on Tuesday.
Employees and workers in sectors such as steel, oil, mines, docks and ports, transport, and insurance joined the strike. The unions will go on a protest march from Mandi House to Parliament in central New Delhi on Wednesday. Protests were reported from some areas that house factories in the national capital.
Banking services were partially affected as All India Bank Employees’ Association and Bank Employees’ Federation of India supported the strike. Operations at SBI, the nation’s largest lender, and private sector banks were not affected.
The trade unions have alleged 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 to the Trade Union Act, 1926, saying they were irrational and damaging to the independent functioning of the unions.
In West Bengal, police resorted to lathi-charge in Hooghly district to control protesters. Clashes were reported in the North 24 Parganas district. “Police arrested our workers even when they were standing on the pavement,” alleged Communist Party of India (Marxist) central committee member Rabin Deb, who said the bandh had strong impact in West Bengal and Kerala. While West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee said her government was opposed to the strike, state Congress president Somen Mitra said his party was extending moral support to the protesters.
BJP leaders said the common man had rejected the strike. “In some places some left leaders and activists are creating commotion. Trinamool is deliberately trying to supply oxygen, so that CPI(M) can revive in the state,” Bengal BJP chief Dilip Ghosh alleged.
About 32,000 employees of Mumbai’s civic transport undertaking went on an indefinite strike over various demands, including higher salaries, prompting the state government to invoke the Maharashtra Essential Services Maintenance Act. The protest by the employees of Brihanmumbai Electricity Supply and Transport coincided with the nationwide strike. Violence was reported from Odisha and Kerala as strikers clashed with police while enforcing the shutdown through road and railway blockades.
Even as thousands of industrial workers, labourers and Anganwadi workers took to the streets of Bengaluru and gathered in front of Town Hall demanding labour-friendly laws, government offices and bus and metro services remained largely unaffected. Ten central trade unions, except the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh-affiliated Bhartiya Mazdoor Sangh, are participating in the strike. The unions include Indian National Trade Union Congress, All India Trade Union Congress, Hind Mazdoor Sabha, CITU and All India United Trade Union Centre.
First Published: Jan 08, 2019 23:16 IST