Nationwide Strike Called by Central Trade Unions Hits Normal Life Across India
Gurugram: Trade Union members stage a demonstration on the first day of the two-day long nationwide strike. (Photo Credit: IANS)

New Delhi, January 8: The two-day nationwide strike called by central trade unions in protest against what they have described as the alleged anti-worker policies and unilateral labour reforms evoked a mixed response on Tuesday with claims of near-total success in some states and of partial impact in some others. The 10 unions which have given the strike call include the Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC), All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC), Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) Hind Mazdoor Sabha, All India United Trade Union Centre- AIUTUC) Trade Union Coordination Centre (TUCC) and Self Employed Women's Association (SEWA).

The RSS-affiliated Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS) did not take part in the strike. Most of the central government offices, banks, port trusts and other state government departments wore a deserted look in the country's financial capital as employees launched a two-day nationwide trade strike, a top organiser said in Mumbai. Nationwide Strike Called by Trade Unions Evokes Mixed Response in Karnataka.

The strike call 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. Farmers to Join Nationwide Strike Called by Central Trade Unions on January 8 and 9.

"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 told IANS. 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, he added.

The strike was near total in Kerala on Tuesday and was by and large peaceful, with train services badly hit. Barring the BJP-backed BMS trade union, all other unions are protesting in support of demands including a raise in minimum wages to Rs 18,000 amongst others. Protesters blocked trains at almost all major stations in Kerala.

State-owned private buses and contract vehicles went off the roads but pilgrims to the Sabarimala shrine were allowed to proceed from all places. Banks, state and central government offices remained shut but shops and establishments including hotels opened in several parts of the state. According to the striking bank employees, over 22,000 bank employees in the state took part in the strike, leaving banking activities in shambles.

Normal life was partially hit in West Bengal on Tuesday as sporadic incidents of vandalism and disruptions were reported from various areas. While the leaders of the trade unions and state's left parties termed the strike as successful and claimed the scenes would be repeated across the state even on Wednesday, state's ruling Trinamool Congress dubbed the impact of the trade strike as "negligible".

Public transport was disrupted for some time as strike supporters put up rail and road blockades at various places since morning. The shutdown evoked a mixed response in Karnataka , with government offices and bus services functioning normally in most parts of the state. "Thousands of trade union members and workers have joined the strike demanding minimum wage of Rs 18,000 per month and abolishing the contract system among other demands," All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC) leader M.D. Harigovind told IANS in Bengaluru.

The strike received a mixed response in Tamil Nadu, said a senior leader of Labour Progressive Union (LPF). "Members of our affliated unions have not attended duty. Nearly 50 per cent of the bus services in Chennai are not plying. In other cities, about 30-40 per cent buses are on the roads operated by members of the ruling party union," LPF General Secretary M. Shanmugam told IANS. Banking and insurance services in Tamil Nadu too were affected.

Banking operations were partially affected on Tuesday, as a section of employees affiliated to the All India Bank Employees Association (AIBEA) and the Bank Employees Federation of India (BEFI) refrained from work in support of the two-day strike call given by central trade unions.