India on strike

10 January 2019 | Arbeid
A two-day strike by central trade unions evoked mixed responses across India yesterday, with banking and transport services partially affected and incidents of violence seen in West Bengal.

As many as 10 central trade unions were protesting against the government's alleged anti-labour policies and unilateral labour reforms.

General secretary Hind Mazdoor Sabha Harbhajan Singh Sidhu told PTI that there is a 100% strike in Assam, Odisha, Manipur, Meghalaya, Maharashtra and Goa.

"We got a response in Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan as well. In our protest march from Mandi House to parliament in the capital, around 4 000 workers came to express their anguish," he added.

Normal life was affected in Goa as private buses and tourist taxis remained off the roads. Long queues of passengers were seen at various bus stands after the private buses association in the state shut its operations. Commuters in Mumbai continued to face hardships as an indefinite strike called by BEST, the city's civic transport undertaking, continued. There were only five buses plying their trade on city roads.

Over 32 000 BEST employees went on an indefinite strike on Tuesday over various demands, including higher salaries.

Sporadic incidents of violence were reported from various parts of the West Bengal and stones were pelted at school buses in the Howrah district. Similar incidents were reported on Tuesday as well. There were similar incidents of stone pelting in other parts of the state too.

Banking services were also partially affected for the second day, as a group of PSU bank employees joined the strike. The All India Bank Employees' Association (AIBEA) and the Bank Employees' Federation of India (BEFI) have supported the strike, which has impacted banking operations where these two unions are strong. However, SBI operations and those at private sector banks remained unaffected, as seven other unions in the banking sector are not part of the strike.

According to AIBEA general secretary, C.H Vekatchalam, cash transactions, clearance of cheques, remittances, bills discounting and foreign exchange transactions were impacted. A treasury branch of the State Bank of India in Thiruvananthapuram was attacked.

Trains were blocked in various parts of Kerala. At the Thiruvananthapuram railway station, the Thiruvananthapuram-Hyderabad Sabari Express and the Venad Express were blocked, while the Kottayam-Nilambur passenger train in Kalamassery was held up for a while. In many places in Kerala, shops and commercial establishments remained shut. Buses and auto-rickshaws were also off the roads in the state.

Most of the textile and spices shops in Broadway Market in Kochi and Mittayi Theruvu (Sweet Street) in Kozhikode were open. Sabarimala pilgrims, tourists, as well as social and religious functions have been exempted from the strike. Earlier in the day All-India Trade Union Congress general secretary Amarjeet Kaur told PTI that a 100% strike is expected in other parts of the country too. However, she said that due to the UGC exams, which started from Tuesday, some state transport departments would not participate completely in the strike, in the interest of students.

The unions have alleged that the government has failed to create jobs and grossly ignored a 12-point charter of demands. They also said that the group of ministers on labour issues has not called unions for any discussions since the 2 September 2015 strike, which left them with no other option but to go on another strike. In a joint statement issued on Monday, the CTUs also alleged that the government undermines tripartism and continues its "aggressive attack with arrogance on the lives and livelihood of the working people".

They are also opposed to the proposed amendments to the Trade Union Act of 1926, saying these are irrational and extremely damaging to the independent functioning of unions. - Nampa/PTI

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