Two-day nationwide strike by workers should serve as a wake-up call for Modi govt
A huge number of workers participated in strike despite orders and advisories by judiciary and some state governments, which shows degree of anger among them against Modi govt’s policies
The two-day workers’ strike hit normalcy in many places across the country on March 28-29, with striking workers taking to the streets demanding scrapping of anti-worker policies of the Modi government.
Many government employees too participated in it despite the threat of invocation of the Essential Services Management Act (ESMA) and other orders against their participation.
The echo of the strike even reached in front of the Parliament of India in the form of protests by several opposition parties, and suspension of business notice was given in Rajya Sabha to discuss the two-day nationwide strike.
All these indicate that the workers’ demands can’t be ignored even as the struggle enters the next stage.
During these two days, an estimated 20 crore workers participated in the strike, which should serve as a wake-up call for any government to initiate talks with their representative trade unions. The majority of workers were affiliated with 10 central trade unions (CTUs): INTUC, AITUC, HMS, CITU, AIUTUC, TUCC, SEWA, AICCTU, LPF and UTUC. The call for the strike was given by a joint platform of CTUs and sectoral federations and associations. Employees and workers from several public transport, banking and electricity services also participated in the strike and/or demonstration across the country.
Goa, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Punjab, Bihar, Rajasthan, West Bengal, Meghalaya and Arunachal Pradesh witnessed protests and strikes. Odisha, Jharkhand, Assam, Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, and Puducherry were also among the worst affected states.
Security workers going on strike in Sikkim was a special phenomenon that cannot be ignored.
Industrial areas in Delhi, Himachal Pradesh, Gujarat and Jammu & Kashmir were also impacted by the strike.
Roadways and electricity workers in Haryana and Chandigarh decided to participate in the strike even under the threat of ESMA.
The workers from both organized and unorganized sectors went on strike which included all sectors, even workers of various government schemes, domestic workers, hawkers, beedi workers, construction workers and so on.
Workers in railways and defence sector held protests in hundreds of places across the country. Coal, steel, oil, telecom, postal, income tax, copper and financial sector, including banking and insurance, employees also joined the strike.
Farmers under the banner of Samyukta Kisan Morch observed bandh in rural areas and organized protest demonstrations in hundreds of places.
Students’ unions also participated in protests at hundreds of places.
Transport services were affected in West Bengal and Haryana, while railways operation were reported partially hit in West Bengal. Metro service in Chennai was also hit because MTC did not operate.
All industrial areas in the country witnessed workers’ agitation. Banking and insurance sector was also affected by the general strike.
All India Bank Employees’ Association (AIBEA) has said that the strike halted banking transactions worth at least Rs 18,000 crore, and about 20 lakh cheques could not be cleared.
Congress MP Shaktisinh Gohil gave suspension of business notice on March 29 in Rajya Sabha to discuss the two-day nationwide strike against government policies that are affecting farmers, workers and people.
On March 28, opposition political parties including the Congress, CPI(M), CPI, DMK, and TRS organized a march from Gandhi statue to Vijay Chowk and protested in support of the workers’ demands.
The success of the strike must be viewed in the backdrop of orders barring government employees from joining it. For example, Kerala High Court had passed an order that government staff “can’t take part in national strike” and asked the state to take appropriate action. In West Bengal, the government asked its staff to report to duty.
Even in Tamil Nadu, the government warned against the strike, but the majority of transport workers ignored it.
In some states like Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh, employees joined the strike even on the second day i.e. March 29.
Public transport services were thrown out of gear in states like West Bengal, Kerala, and Tamil Nadu.
In brief, in spite of orders and advisories by judiciary and some state governments, a huge number of workers participated in the strike, which shows the degree of anger among them against the Modi government’s policies.
‘Save People, Save Nation’ was the joint call of the CTUs given against the alleged “anti-worker, anti-farmer, anti-people, and anti-national policies” of the Centre.
Their 12-point charter of demand includes scrapping of the four controversial labour codes, stopping of privatisation in any form and scrapping of National Monetisation Policy (NMP), regularization of contract workers, and social security to all workers and households.
Given the situation on the ground which can further embitter the industrial relations in the country, Modi government must initiate talks with the agitating working class to find a solution as soon as possible.
Views are personal