Bharat Bandh: Nationwide strike called by 10 workers’ unions affects normal life across states

The 48-hours nationwide strike evoked mixed response across the country. West Bengal witnessed some incidents of vandalism and violence, while transport services were badly hit in Mumbai, Maharashtra

IANS/PTI

Bharat Bandh, the nationwide strike called by ten central trade unions saw a mixed response across the country. In West Bengal, several protesters were arrested as sporadic incidents of vandalism were reported from parts of the state. The two-day nationwide strike has been called by central trade unions to protest against the "anti-people" policies of the Centre.

Stones were pelted at a school bus in Champadali area of Barasat in North 24 Parganas district. The students were later deboarded from the bus, police said. Strike supporters burnt effigies of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and burnt tyres in various parts of the state including Kolkata.

In Howrah, Siliguri, Bardhaman, Birbhum, North and South 24 Paraganas, clashes broke out between Trinamool Congress workers and strike supporters as TMC activists tried to stop them from forcibly imposing the strike.

Despite the incidents of violence, normal life in an around Kolkata and other parts of the state remained more or less unaffected by the strike call till 12 noon, except a few pockets.

At Jadavpur area in south Kolkata, senior CPI(M) leader Sujan Chakraborty along with several other strike supporters were detained by the police.

CPI(M) leaders have come out on the streets in support of the strike. The Trinamool Congress government in the state has opposed the strike call.

In Tamil Nadu, M. Shanmugam, a senior leader of Labour Progressive Union (LPF) said the response to the strike was mixed. "Members of our affliated unions have not attended duty. Nearly 50% of the bus services in Chennai are not plying. In other cities, about 30-40% buses are on the roads operated by members of the ruling party union," he said.

He added that the response to the strike was positive from the unorganised sector like construction workers and others too.

Banking and insurance services in Tamil Nadu too were affected as the employees are supporting the strike.

Inter-state bus services to Kerala and Karnataka were terminated at the border to prevent any untoward incidents.

In Maharashtra, most of the central government offices, banks, port trusts and other state government departments wore a deserted look on Tuesday as employees launched a two-day nationwide trade strike, a top organiser said.

The strike call by 10 central trade unions and industry-wide independent federations covers banks, insurance, post, BSNL, state transport, railways, port trust, defence and other PSUs, central-state government undertakings, municipal workers, aanganwadi staffers, hawkers and others comprising 25 crore people, said Trade Unions Joint Action Committee (TUJAC) (Maharashtra) Convenor Vishwas Utagi.

"In Mumbai, even the public bus service, BEST, has gone on an indefinite strike since midnight to protest against the 'anti-workers policies of the Bharatiya Janata Party government at the Centre'," Utagi said. The trade unions have called a massive rally at Azad Maidan on Tuesday. And similar rallies are being held across the state.

The two-day nationwide strike called by various trade unions in protest against the Centre's anti-labour policies affected normal life in Odisha. Commuters were having a tough time finding buses and autorickshaws in several cities as protesters staged road blockade at various places.

They also blocked tracks at several railway stations that affected the movement of trains in the state. Besides, many shops and business establishments remained closed at various places in the state. In view of the strike, the state government has declared closure of all educational institutions on Tuesday.

The ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) and opposition Congress have extended their support to the strike.

Trains were stopped, buses and auto-rickshaws kept off roads in Kerala, as the 48-hour general strike hit normal life in the southern state Tuesday. Workers from various sectors have extended support to the two-day strike. Trains were stopped in Thiruvananthapuram, Tripunithura, Shoranur railway stations.

All trade unions except the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh have supported the strike. The Sabarimala pilgrims, tourists, social and religious functions have been exempted from the strike Tuesday.

To ensure Sabarimala pilgrims were not affected by the strike, the Kerala State Road Transport Corporation has been operating buses from various destinations to Pamba, the foothills of the Sabarimala temple. However, KSRTC buses were not plying on other routes.

Meanwhile, pilgrims at Nilackal said they have been waiting for hours to reach the hill shrine. Private-run buses are also keeping off roads.

Shops at many places in the state capital were open and the popular 'Mittayi Theruvu' (sweet street) in Kozhikode was buzzing.

The union leaders had assured businesses they would not force closure of shops and target traders. The Kerala Vyapari Vyavasayi Ekopana Samithi has said it would open its commercial establishments.

While buses of the Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) stayed off the roads in most parts of the state, causing inconvenience to the people travelling to distant places, private buses, auto, taxi and metro services were available as usual.

Mixed response to strike have been reported so far from Mysuru, Mangaluru, Hubballi-Dharwad among others. In many districts, holiday was declared in schools and colleges, with examinations being postponed.

Very few Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC) buses were seen plying on the roads. Officials said passengers were also few in number, as most of them were aware of strike and have opted for other modes of transport. Two BMTC buses were pelted with stones by miscreants near Malleswaram here, they said.

There were complaints about auto drivers charging exorbitant fares from passengers here, Hubballi among other places. Authorities said action would be initiated against such drivers.

Hotels, shops and establishments like malls and film theatres functioned as usual, with their unions extending a moral support to the strike. Bank services are likely to be disrupted.

Ten Central trade unions who have called the strike have placed a charter of demands that include minimum wage, universal social security, workers status and including pay and facilities for the scheme workers, against privatisation of public and government organisations.

This is the biggest nationwide agitation this year ahead of the crucial Lok Sabha elections, and has the support of all major opposition parties in states and the Centre.

For all the latest India News, Follow India Section.