Kolkata/New Delhi: Millions of people struck work and scores of flights were cancelled as a 24-hour nationwide strike called by eight trade unions against rising prices and privatisation disrupted life in parts of India, particularly those ruled by Left parties.
According to G. Sanjeeva Reddy, president of the Congress-backed Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC), around 100 million (10 crore) workers and employees from sectors including banks, insurance, coal, power, telecom, defence, port and dock, road transport and petroleum and unorganised sectors such as construction joined the strike.
"The strike is 99 percent successful," the Rajya Sabha MP and convener of the Coordination Committee of the Central Trade Unions, which called the strike, told IANS from Hyderabad.
The strike, he said, was being held to "reassert" the bargaining power of the trade unions.
According to him, government leaders, including Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, wanted to discuss the workers` demands. He said senior central ministers had already contacted him for this.
The trade unions that called the strike are, besides INTUC, the Left-affiliated All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC) and the Centre of Indian Unions (CITU) as well as the All India United Trade Union Centre (AITUC), Trade Union Coordination Centre (TUCC), All India Central Council of Trade Unions (AICCTU), United Trade Union Congress (UTUC) and the Hind Mazdoor Sabha (HMS).
The workers want a check on price rise of essential commodities, pro-active measures to protect employment in recession hit sectors, strict enforcement of all basic labour laws without exception, Rs.50,000 crore for an unorganised workers` social security fund, and a halt to privatization of central public sector enterprises.
The strike was virtually complete in the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) ruled states of West Bengal, Tripura and Kerala, while it evoked a mixed response in states like Tamil Nadu and a tepid reaction in Karnataka.
The demands found resonance in West Bengal, where life ground to a halt in most parts, crippling commercial activities and road traffic. The hub of IT and ITeS (IT enabled Services) operations,
Salt Lake sector five, registered a very thin attendance.
However, with the opposition Trinamool Congress bringing out processions, a few shops and markets opened as the day wore on.
More than 100 flights run by private airlines to and from Kolkata were cancelled in advance.
Kolkata, which bustles with activity on normal weekdays, saw empty roads as vehicles did not venture out. The strike was total in industrial areas like Taratala.
Government and private buses did not ply and most people chose to remain indoors.
The strike paralysed the industrial belt on both sides of the Hooghly river in Hooghly, Howrah and North 24-Parganas districts, with workers picketing factory gates.
Clashes between CPI-M and Trinamool Congress erupted in several places.
Two people were injured when a scuffle broke out between workers of the two parties over the opening of shops in North 24 Parganas` Baranagar.
Life in Tripura was crippled as well with most markets, shops and business establishments, government and semi-government offices, educational institutions, banks and financial institutions shut. Roads were deserted and rail services between Tripura and the rest of the country affected.
In Assam, life was impacted in many places though tea and oil production were not hit.
Central government offices and
banking services, barring State Bank of India, were affected in Meghalaya. Meghalaya Joint Council of Trade Unions and
Associations (MJCTUA), a conglomerate of 40 trade unions,
submitted a 10-point memorandum memorandum to Chief Minister
Mukul Sangma seeking national intervention on the issues.
Strike supporters forcibly closed down some shops
which opened in the morning in the Imphal market complex.
In Mumbai, commuters had a tough time as autorickshaws joined the stir but banks and financial institutions, both in public and private sectors, responded wholeheartedly. Over one lakh auto rickshaws and
thousands of taxis across the city went on strike.
According to Vishwas Utagi, secretary of the All India Bank Employees Association, around one million bank employees protested against a host of issues including foreign direct investments in public sector banks and entry of foreign banks.
Banks in which employees owing allegiance to The All
India Bank Employees Association (AIBEA) and Bank Employees
Federation of India (BEFI) were affected to some extent but
the country`s largest lender, State Bank of India, remained
Besides, private sector and foreign banks were also
In Orissa, mining operations in Sundergarh and Keonjhar districts were paralysed. But work in major establishments, including at the state-owned National Aluminium Co (NALCO) mines and refinery in Koraput, was not hit.
Several trains were delayed as bandh supporters blocked
the tracks at various places including the capital city for
varied duration, police sources said adding no untoward
incident was reported from anywhere.
Banking and government-run bus services were partially affected in parts of Rajasthan. Clerical staff affiliated to All India Bank Employees
Association and Bank Employees Federation of India boycotted
work, while SBI, Bank Of Baroda, Canara Bank and Regional
Rural Bank across the state functioned without any hurdle.
The state-run roadways buses in 33 depots out of 40 were
off the roads in the morning, however, public transportation
of BRTS was as usual in the state capital.
While banking and insurance service were affected due
to strike, state government employees, excluding those on
emergency services, abstained from work.
"Though there is complete the strike, essential
services have been excluded," president of Rajya Karamchari
Mahasangh Lallan Pandey said.
Convenor of Power Employees Action Committee Shailendra
Dubey said that barring essential services power staff
boycotted work across the state. Meanwhile, the banking and postal services were partially
affected in Allahabad city also.
Nearly 1.5 lakh employees associated with various trade
unions like CITU, All India Banks Employees` Association and
BSNL Employees` federation, Uttarakhand State Corporation
Employees` federation are participating in the strike.
Buses and auto rickshaws plied on the roads while shops
and other commercial establishments remained open. Junior
employees in government offices also reported to their duty.
Most banks, except State Bank of India (SBI) branches,
wore a deserted look as the employees held demonstrations and
staged procession across the state, B Prasad, Bank Employees` Federation (Bihar) General Secretary, claimed.
"Clearing operations was halted due to the strike,
which also received support from some private banks in
Bihar," he said adding the NABARD office too was closed.
Officials said functioning of offices of BSNL and
Department of Posts was partially affected due to the strike.
The strike, however, failed to have an impact on
operation of flights at Jayaprakash Narayan International
Airport here, airport sources said.
The strike was total in transport sector with buses,
trucks, taxis and autorickshaws keeping off the roads, halting
the mobility of vast sections of people.
Attendance was thin in government offices and public
sector and scheduled banks, where unions supported the strike.
The protest also affected functioning of shifts in most
factories since last midnight but evoked no response in the IT
sector. Schools and colleges went without classes as students and
teachers could not reach the institutions for lack public
transport. However, private vehicles plied freely in cities
Punjab, Haryana Chandigarh
Public transport and banking services were the major
casualties of the strike though industries in both Punjab and
Haryana remained insulated from the strike.
Even as government officials claimed that the strike has
fizzled out, members of unions took out protest marches and
blocked traffic across both the states against alleged
anti-people policies of the Centre.
Despite issuing strict warning to enforce "No Work No
Pay" by authorities against the strike, many employees
affiliated to trade unions like CITU and AITUC, abstained from
The Transport department here suspended inter-state
bus services as its employees are observing strike.
According to Bank Employees Association as many as
35,000 employees from various public and private banks are
taking part in the strike called by central trade unions.
Mining and transport activities came to a halt
at Singareni Collieries- the state owned coal mining company
as scores of workers participated in the strike.
Air and road traffic was also hit in the state.
Buses, shops, business establishments and commercial
houses operated normally. However, working of banks was hit as
its employees stayed away to press for their demands.
Schools and colleges were also functioning as usual,
However, majority of autorikshaws remained off the
roads as part of their dawn-to-dusk stir demanding subsidised
foodgrains and loans to buy four-stroke engine vehicles.