The first day of the two-day strike called by trade unions on Tuesday witnessed stray incidents of violence in West Bengal, public bus services going off the road in Mumbai and partial impact on banking operations. The strike has been called to protest against alleged anti-people policies of the central government.
Barring left-ruled Kerala, normal life was largely unaffected in most parts of the country. In Kerala, schools and colleges remained shut and banking services were affected, reported PTI. Offices recorded low attendance but no untoward incident was reported in the Left-ruled state. Trains were stopped while buses and autorickshaws were off the road, hitting normal life.
In Mumbai, the trade union strike coincided with a massive protest by over 32,000 employees of the city’s civic transport who went on an indefinite strike to demand higher wages. The protest and trade union strike affected nearly 25 lakh daily commuters.
The banking operations were partially affected as two leading bank unions joined the strike. However, State Bank of India (SBI) and private sector banks reported no impact on their operations.
Even though several trains were reported running late, government services including electricity supply and train services were unaffected by the strike. Owing to the agitation, local trains, EMU and MEMU in West Bengal were delayed en route.
Odisha also witnessed a disruption in rail and road traffic. Train services were hit as trade union activists staged rail roko at places like Bhubaneswar, Cuttack, Puri, Balasore, Jaleswar, Bhadrak, Sambalpur, Berhampur, and Paradip. PTI reported that 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.
Sporadic incidents of vandalism were reported at a few places in West Bengal, where the Trinamool Congress-led state government had made elaborate security arrangements. An incident of stone pelting at a school bus was also reported in the state. Government offices, IT sector, and port activities were normal, and so were attendance at tea gardens.
Prime Minister Narendra Mod’s effigies were burnt by protesters. Tyres were also set ablaze in some parts of the state including Kolkata. In Howrah, Siliguri, Bardhaman, Birbhum, North and South 24 Paraganas, clashes were reported between Trinamool Congress workers and strike supporters as TMC activists tried to stop them from forcibly imposing the strike.
Some long-distance trains were delayed as protestors blocked railway tracks in some part of West Bengal.
In Rajasthan, as many as 22 policemen were injured following clashes at the manufacturing plant of a Japanese company as workers, who were supporting the stir, tried to enter its premises, police said. Union leaders claimed that 50 workers were injured in the police action.
According to bank unions, thousands of bank employees participated in the strike, impacting counter activities such as cash deposit and withdrawal as well as cheque clearances were impacted at many branches. Officers at many branches were seen handling some of the activities.
Centre of Indian Trade Union (CITU) claimed around 20 crore workers from all sectors of the economy participated in the strike across the country. The strike would continue on January 9. “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,” CITU said in a statement.
It alleged that the strike was the result of the discontent over the BJP-led Narendra Modi government’s policies which were for the benefit of big corporates and business houses, both foreign and domestic, “with least concern for the plight of the toiling people”. It claimed that the strike, which was supported by sectors like telecom, health, education, coal, steel, electricity, banking, insurance and transport, affected train movement as well as normal life across states like West Bengal, Kerala, several districts of Karnataka, North-Eastern states and Odisha.
The 10 trade union that gave the strike call include INTUC, AITUC, HMS, CITU, AIUTUC, TUCC, SEWA, AICCTU, LPF and UTUC. The RSS affiliate Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS) is not participating in the strike.
“Road transport was seriously affected in most of the states, including Kerala, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Bihar, Haryana, Punjab, Uttarakhand. Though the railway employees did not join the strike, in several places they extended support,” the CITU claimed.
Amarjeet Kaur, All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC) general secretary, claimed that five states and a UT saw complete bandh on the first day of the strike. “As many as five states of Assam, Kerala, Manipur, Meghalaya, Odisha, and the union territory of Puducherry witnessed complete bandh while other states like Karnataka, Delhi, Goa, West Bengal reported 100 per cent strike by workers today,” Kaur told PTI.
She said that banking and postal services across the country were affected. Engineers and electricity workers did not join duties while mining activity was also impacted.
-With PTI Inputs