New Delhi: The two-day pan-India strike called by 10 trade unions evoked a mixed response on the first day on Tuesday. A complete shutdown was witnessed in five states, including Kerala, Odisha and Assam while sporadic incidents of violence were reported in West Bengal and Rajasthan.
While no major incident was reported across the country, the bandh partly affected the public life in most of the states and Union Territories.
The two-day nationwide strike, launched by central trade unions on Tuesday to protest against the government’s alleged anti-worker policies and unilateral labour reforms, will continue on Wednesday.
The shutdown led to public bus services going off the road in Mumbai, while banking operations were partially affected with two leading bank unions joining the strike.
Meanwhile, the Centre warned its agitating employees of disciplinary action if they go on strike and don’t join work, according to an order issued by the Personnel Ministry.
Kerala And Other Southern States
While normal life was disrupted in Kerala, the protest evoked mixed response while by and large it was business as usual in three other southern states.
In Kerala, the stir virtually turned into a ‘hartal’. Offices reported low attendance, schools and colleges were shut and banking services affected.
According to bank unions, 22,000 bank employees participated in the strike.
Though trade unions had promised that vehicles would not be blocked and shops and business establishments not forcibly shut, there were reports of some shops being forced to down shutters.
Some protesters squatted on rail tracks at various places delaying departure of trains. Buses and autorickshaws also kept off the roads, putting people into difficulties. The Kerala State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) could not operate most of its fleet of buses.
In Karnataka, hotels, shops and establishments like malls and film theatres functioned as usual, with their unions extending “moral support” to the strike.
While buses of the Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation stayed off the roads in most parts of the state, causing inconvenience to people travelling to distant places, private buses, auto, taxi and metro services plied as usual.
Very few Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC) buses were seen plying on the roads. Miscreants hurled stones at two BMTC buses, police said.
In West Bengal, where the Trinamool Congress-led state government had made elaborate security arrangements, reported an incident of stone pelting at a school bus and sporadic incidents of vandalism at a few places.
Government offices, IT sector, and port activities were normal, and so were attendance at tea gardens.
Strike supporters burnt effigies of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and burnt tyres on streets 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.
Protesters blocked railway tracks in some part of West Bengal, delaying some long-distance trains.
The strike disrupted rail and road traffic in Odisha on Tuesday. Train services were hit as trade union activists staged ‘rail roko’ at many places including Bhubaneswar, Cuttack, Puri, Balasore, Jaleswar, Bhadrak, Sambalpur, Berhampur and Paradip.
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.
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.
Roads wore a deserted look with vehicles, including government and private buses refraining from playing, while a large number of passengers were seen stranded in bus stands in many places.
In state capital Bhubaneswar, trade union activists staged picketing and and road blockade by burning tyres at several places and busy thoroughfares. They held a sit-in at Master Canteen Square.
In neighbouring Cuttack city, the activists picketed and blocked roads at various places, besides staging a rail roko at the railway station.
Educational institutions including schools, colleges and universities remained shut in view of the strike. A notification in this regard was issued by the state government on Monday, an official said.
In Mumbai, over 32,000 employees of Mumbai’s civic transport undertaking went on an indefinite strike to demand higher wages. The protest, which coincided with the two-day strike called by 10 trade unions, affected nearly 25 lakh daily commuters.
Some commuters complained that autorickshaw drivers were trying to take advantage of the situation and were charging five times more than the normal rates.
A meeting between Brihanmumbai Municipal Commissioner Ajoy Mehta and leaders of the workers’ union that has called the strike failed to arrive at a positive result.
As many as 22 policemen were injured in Rajasthan following clashes at the manufacturing plant of a Japanese company as workers, who were supporting the stir, tried to enter its premises, police said.
Banking operations were partially affected as a section of employees refrained from work in support of the two-day strike call.
The All India Bank Employees Association (AIBEA) and the Bank Employees Federation of India (BEFI) have supported the strike, which impacted banking operations where these two unions are strong.
However, the operations in State Bank of India (SBI) and private sector banks remained unaffected, as other seven unions in the banking sector are not part of the strike.
Since employees associated with these two banking sector unions were on strike, counter activities such as cash deposit and withdrawal, cheque clearances were impacted at many branches. Officers at many branches were seen handling some of the activities.