Pan-India trade union strike evokes mixed response

Pan-India trade union strike evokes mixed response

By OUR CORRESPONDENT | NEW DELHI | 2 September, 2016

The nationwide day-long strike on Friday by Left-affiliated trade unions against the BJP-led central government's "anti-labour" policies affected normal life in several states, including West Bengal, Karnataka and Communist-ruled Kerala and Tripura, but saw minimal effect in the national capital and Mumbai.

In Delhi and Mumbai, it was almost business as usual as public transport plied normally and offices largely remained open. Suburban trains in Mumbai also ran as normal with auto-rickshaws, taxis and city buses also operating unaffected.

Train and flight services were unaffected in West Bengal as vehicles plied on the streets. But fewer people ventured out and buses largely ran empty.

Attendance was near normal in the West Bengal government departments, with a large number of employees choosing to spend the night in office on Thursday, fearing dislocation of traffic.

Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) state president Shyamal Chakraborty, however, claimed the strike was "completely successful". "They (the government) have forcibly run some buses, but 90 per cent seats are vacant."

In Kerala, it was almost a complete shutdown with public transport services across the state not operating. Government offices, schools and colleges were closed.

The trade union workers led by former CPI-M legislator V. Sivankutty blocked the garage of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) to stop employees from entering the complex.

The ISRO has never allowed such strikes to affect its work as their vehicles move in convoys under the cover of paramilitary security forces. But on Friday, not a single vehicle operated.

Life was also crippled in Left-governed Tripura where shops, business establishments, markets, banks and financial institutions, government offices and educational institutions were closed and vehicles were off the roads.

The central and state trade unions called for the strike demanding better wages and protesting against rising prices and growing unemployment. They have also flagged the issues of disinvestment in the public sector and FDI in Railways, Defence and Insurance sectors.

Essential services like ambulance, the supply of drinking water and milk and private vehicles carrying commodities and vegetables have been exempted from the strike.

All leading unions, barring the BJP's trade union wing Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS), have joined the strike.

In Karnataka, shops, markets, banks and factories were shut, and buses, taxis and auto-rickshaws kept off the roads and crippled the normal life. Schools and colleges in seven of the 30 districts declared holiday.

The strike, however, did not affect IT firms and biotech firms in Bengaluru, Mysuru, Mangaluru, and Hubblali. Such companies had hired in advance vehicles to ferry their employees.

Normal life was also hit in Bihar where the strike evoked a near-total response as shops and business establishments were shut, and train and road services were disrupted by activists of various trade unions

In the BJP-ruled Haryana, public transport remained off the roads leaving tens of thousands of passengers in a lurch. Private buses as well as auto-rickshaws also joined the strike.

Most of the 18 lakh government employees in Uttar Pradesh didn't attend their offices as the strike was supported by the state's 250 employee unions.

Banks and commercial establishments were closed across Himachal Pradesh.

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