New Delhi: The opening day of the 48 hour-country-wide strike called by various trade unions evoked a mixed response with sporadic violence being reported from some areas, while normal life came to a halt in other parts of the country on Wednesday.
Two-day strike, which was called to demand concrete measures to check inflation, ensure jobs and enforce labour laws, crippled the financial sector and the public transport was also hit badly.
Day one of the nationwide protest saw trains stopped in some places like Bihar and roads blocked elsewhere but it was all mostly peaceful, with the exception of violence in Uttar Pradesh's Noida and Greater Noida areas, close to the national capital, where mobs attacked factories and set fire to vehicles.
Major banks were closed and large number of auto-rickshaws and taxis stayed off the roads while shops remained open in some areas throughout the day.
School children and office-goers suffered the most as most auto-rickshaw and taxi drivers either refused or overcharged them. Passengers at major railway stations and bus stands were stranded for hours and forced to shell out more fares to reach their destinations. Radio taxis, however, were on the roads.
The situation spun out of control in Noida Phase II after thousands of trade union workers protested and pelted stones at some factories that had opened and burnt vehicles, including a fire engine.
The police had to resort to lathi charge to disperse the restive crowd; however, the situation remains very tense in the area. The top brass of the district administration is at the spot trying to bring the situation under control.
At least one factory complex was also torched, while a hosiery unit was ransacked, reports said.
Additional police force was rushed to Noida. Sporadic incidents of violence were reported from Sector 63 in the city. Meanwhile, 14 people were arrested for violence in Noida.
In Haryana’s Ambala town, a trade union leader, who was squatting along with a group of workers near the local bus depot as part of the two-day nationwide strike call, on Wednesday died when he was hit by a bus in his bid to stop it from plying.
While widespread impact was seen in states like Delhi, Punjab, Bihar, Haryana, Kerala, Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh, the situation was relatively better in Maharashtra, West Bengal, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.
The two-day strike has been called by country’s 11 registered trade unions, cutting across party lines, to protest against the “anti-people” policies of the UPA govt that include price rise, poor implementation of labour laws and disinvestment in PSUs/increased FDI in various sectors.
Pensions for everyone along with removal of ceiling on bonus and provident fund are among the demands raised by the unions. Apart from unions owing allegiance to the Left, the pro-Congress INTUC and pro-BJP BMS are also participating in the strike.
Major sectors like banking, transport, ports, power and telecom are part of the protest call. However, the railways and air services functioned normally as they are not part of the strike.
Delhi: While banks were closed, as also across the country, commuting was affected in the national capital as taxis/ autos stayed off the roads. DTC pressed more busses into service and there was a huge rush in metro trains.
Punjab, Haryana, Chandigarh and J&K: State transport buses did not operate in Punjab and Haryana causing discomfort to the travelling public. However, CTU buses were plying normally in Chandigarh.
Protesting employees have planned to continue demonstrations and rallies across Punjab and Haryana to press their demands.
The bandh also evoked some impact in Jammu and Kashmir.
Uttar Pradesh: Normal life was disrupted across Uttar Pradesh on the first day of the two-day bandh. Apart from a minor clash in Noida, no untoward incident was reported from other parts of the state.
Roads in Lucknow wore a deserted look as city buses and autorickshaws kept off the roads. 10,000-odd government-run buses stayed off the roads. The bandh was total in Meerut, Ghaziabad, Noida, Kanpur, Varanasi, Lucknow, Saharanpur, Unnao, Moradabad and Allahabad.
India's financial sector was crippled as all banks, insurance companies and commercial establishments in Mumbai remained shut.
Although suburban trains, buses, cabs and private vehicles were running normally, the usual peak hour crowds were relatively thin.
The Shiv Sena and all its affiliated organisations are fully supporting the shutdown.
Over all, the bandh evoked a mixed response.
The bandh was near total in Gujarat with all trade unions supporting the strike. Roads in Ahmedabad and other cities wore a deserted look.
The two-day nationwide evoked mixed reactions in Rajasthan. People faced problems as banks branches are closed and state roadways buses also stayed off the roads.
However, there was no significant impact on school buses and autorickshaws.
West Bengal: There was little impact of the strike in West Bengal with situation being normal and peaceful across the state.
Shops and markets were mostly open in Kolkata. Private buses and taxis were less, though state buses were present in large number on the roads, police sources said.
Barring blockades at Hasnabad and Diamond sections of the Eastern Railway, train services were normal; flight schedule was also normal at the city airport.
The Trinammool Congress government in West Bengal issued a circular to all its employees asking them to be present in offices failing which they would be served showcause notices.
Bihar: Thousands of people were stranded across the state as trains were stopped and key highways blocked by activists affiliated to various trade unions.
Nearly a dozen passenger and long-distance trains were blocked at Patna, Gaya, Jehanabad, Hajipur, Bhagalpur and Darbhanga railway stations. Strikers also blocked national and state highways at various places across the state.
North-East: The nation-wide bandh evoked mixed response in the north eastern states. Public transport was hit in Guwahati, with people facing problems in commuting.
Workers affiliated to trade unions, including those in the oil sector, also participated in the strike.
Normal life was severely hit in Left ruled Tripura.
Odisha: Train services were disrupted by protesters blocking tracks at many places including the state capital of Bhubaneswar, besides at Cuttack, Balasore, Khurda Road, Berhampur and Sambalpur.
Commuters faced difficulties as buses, taxis and auto-rickshaws remained off the roads leaving a large number of passengers, including women and children, stranded at bus stands
Kerala: Normal life was severely hit across Kerala with workers from varied sectors, including transport and banking, staying away from work.
Early reports said buses and taxis were off the roads and shops and restaurants remained closed. Train services were not affected.
The strike began on a strong note in the state with the personnel of various public sector organisations staying away from work. APSRTC staff also joined the strike in different parts of the state.
In Vijayawada, the trade unions took out a rally and demanded that the government respond to their demands.
Tamil Nadu, Karnataka:
Barring stray incidents of stone pelting in Bellary, the situation remained normal in Karnataka.
In Bangalore, no untoward incidents were reported. Shops and educational institutes remained closed, while state transport services operated lesser number of buses. Autos were off roads and there was no disruption in train services.
In Tamil Nadu, the strike call had partial impact as a majority of shops remained open and transport services plied normally.
However, banking services were hit hard as most public and private sector banks remained closed.
City buses and auto-rickshaws plied as usual. Partial inter-city services were operated from Chennai Mofussil Bus Terminus, sources said.
First Published: Wednesday, February 20, 2013, 08:42