Trade unions’ strike affects life in Kerala, West Bengal, J’khand
The nationwide general strike called by trade unions in protest against the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government’s economic policies was near complete in Left-ruled Kerala and some parts of West Bengal and in coal-rich areas of Jharkhand on Thursday. Elsewhere in the country, the strike had limited impact.
Shops downed their shutters and most buses stayed off the roads.In Kerala, the lone state in the country ruled by a Marxist government, normal life was badly hit as the 24-hour protest, called by a central committee of trade unions, hit all major sectors, including government offices, banking and insurance .
Pilgrims bound for the hill shrine of Sabarimala in Kerala were spared by the strikers. Kerala State Road Transport Corporation buses operated on the temple route, carrying pilgrims. In some districts, tiny store owners complained about the strike hurting their earnings at a time when they are already struggling in the aftermath of Covid-19.
The strike has been called to protest against new farm and labour laws that the unions believe promote corporate interests at the expense of farmers and workers.
Because of the pandemic , trade unions shunned mass rallies and instead organised limited protest meetings and human chains across Kerala. Marxist leaders and workers took part in the state-level inauguration of the protest by the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) at Gandhi Park in Thiruvananthapuram, following social distancing norms.
In West Bengal, trains services were disrupted and roads were blocked. Supporters of the general strike clashed with the police at multiple places in West Bengal. At some places, passengers were asked to get off buses by strike supporters who didn’t allow public transport to ply. Shops were damaged in central Kolkata where protestors hurled bricks. In Cooch Behar, they broke the windshields of buses.
At Taratala in Kolkata, a scuffle broke out between the police and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) workers who organised a rally against the strike. The police caned the activists and arrested a few of them.
Protests were staged outside Metro stations in Kolkata. “Some groups were protesting outside Dum Dum, Chandni Chowk and Central Metro stations. There were attempts to enter the metro stations but (they) failed. There was no disruption in metro services,” said a spokesperson for Kolkata Metro.
Elsewhere in the state, protestors dumped banana leaves and tree branches on overhead wires and sat on railway tracks to block trains. “I had to go down to Kolkata for work but had to abandon the idea as train services were disrupted and bandh supporters were clashing with the police at many places,” said Arindam Das, a resident of Gosaba in South 24 Parganas.
Police had to use force to disperse crowds and clear the traffic in many places such as Barasat, Kamarhati and Durgapur.
In Jharkhand, the strike was complete in the coal-bearing areas of Bakora and Dhanbad, where unions held protest rallies and prevented buses from plying.. In other towns of the state such as Ranchi and Jameshdpur, the impact was partial, officials said.
Trade unions such as Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC), All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC), Hind Mazdoor Sabha (HMS), Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), All India United Trade Union Centre (AIUTUC), Trade Union Co-ordination Centre (TUCC) and Self-Employed Women’’s Association (SEWA) joined the strike. BJP-aligned Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS) did not participate in the strike.
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