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NEW DELHI(PTI): Normal life in several parts of the country was affected on Friday by the one-day nationwide strike by trade unions with public transport, banking and mining being among the most-hit, while protesting workers were detained in Haryana, Jharkhand, West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh. The central trade unions said the strike was successful as around 18 crore workers came on streets to support the agitation, despite only partial impact in some states like Punjab, Himachal Pradesh and Rajasthan.
Industry body ASSOCHAM pegged the cost to the economy at Rs 16,000-18,000 crore from the one-day stir, call for which was given by ten central unions to protest against what they called the government’s “indifference” to workers demands for better wages and facilities and the “anti-worker” changes in labour laws. The government said sectors such as railways, civil aviation and major ports remained “unaffected”, while banking and insurance, coal, telecom and defence production were “partially affected” and transport and steel saw only marginal impact.
While the agitation paralysed day to day work in states like Kerala, Odisha, Tripura, Assam and Telangana, the impact was quite visible in Andhra Pradesh, Manipur, Haryana, West Bengal, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Uttar Pradesh, claimed Trade Union Coordination Committee (TUCC) General Secretary SP Tiwari. He said: “The impact was partial in states like Punjab, Himachal Pradesh and Rajasthan but the life remained normal in metropolitan cities of Mumbai and Delhi. However the strike is successful as around 18 crore workers came on streets to support the agitation.”
Central of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) Tapan Kumar Sen said: “The repose to the strike was massive and unprecedented. Workers actively participated in the strike despite the use of state repression including the use of police force in some states like West Bengal, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Assam etc.”
Section 144 imposed, workers arrested
It further said, “Section 144 was imposed in several industrial areas as in Gurgaon, Faridabad in Haryana, Nodia etc. 12 workers of Maruti Suzuki and 22 transport union leaders were arrested in Gurgaon; police went to workers residential areas in Gurgaon to coerce contract workers who were on strike, to join work.” It added: “The West Bengal transport minister directed the MD of Water Transport to suspend the striking employees. TMC goons attacked processions of striking workers, youth, women and even journalists in Burdwan and many other places.”
All India Coal Workers Federation DD Ramanadan claimed that “dispatch, production and transport of coal has come a standstill” with operations in CIL subsidiaries BCCL, CCL, ECL and CMPDI badly hit. “Around 300 workers have been arrested in Rajmahal and Chitra mines areas.” “There has been instance of arrest in West Bengal and Haryana. We came to know that 12 people have been arrested in Manesar while seven were detained in West Bengal. The strike this time has greater impact than last year’s agitation on September 2,” All India Trade Union Congress Secretary DL Sachdev said.
In West Bengal, nearly 270 bandh supporters, including Siliguri mayor Ashok Bhattacharya, were arrested. “Buses of Punjab Roadways and Haryana Roadways are almost off the Road. More than half of the buses of Uttar Pradesh Road Transport are also off the road. But DTC’s buses are plying while Delhi Metro is also functional,” Sachdev said. Over 100 agitators were taken into preventive custody in Visakhapatnam, where the strike evoked a good response in the industrial areas of Gajuwaka and Autonagar.
Auto Sector hit
Auto sector was also hit as workers remained off duty from some of plants of Tata Motors, Hero Moto Corp and Honda Motorcycle and Scooter India. Clearing operations at the Reserve Bank was hit with the union leaders claiming that 26 lakh cheques totalling value of Rs 19,000 crore were held up as the staff did not report for duty.
“Clearing services has been impacted. About 26 lakh cheques worth Rs 19,000 crore has been held up. Out of the 7.5 lakh employees, five lakh remained off duty. Cash transaction was affected and ATMs ran dry at several place. Government transaction also remained affected”, claimed AIBEA General Secretary CH Venkatachalam.
All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC) said, “While strike was visibly complete in Transport, Coal, Oil Refineries and Marketing, Automobile, Banking and Insurance, postal services, telecommunications, private transport sectors. The Centre as well as the State Govt employees in most states and Delhi participated in the strike.”
It said that in states like Odisha, Telangana, Kerala, Assam, Jharkhand, Manipur, Karnataka, Puducherry, Tripura and Bihar, it was bundh like situation where even markets remained closed. The scheme workers overwhelmingly participated in the strike action everywhere.
AITUC further said state as well as private transport in Karnataka, Haryana and Telangana, Assam Punjab, Uttarakhand, Kerala, Goa completely remained off the road and partial strike in remaining states. According to statement, in coal sector, 90% of six lakh coal workers remained on strike even transportation of coal from the mining area was paralysed. Transport and steel were marginally affected, the labour ministry said in a statement. “While Kerala and Tripura were affected Odisha, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka and Chhattisgarh were partially affected. In other states strikes impact remained negligent,” it said.
Nurses on strike
No report of loss of life or property was reported from any part of the country, it said. Meanwhile, services at several hospitals in the national capital were severely affected as nurses went on strike at a time when Delhi and many other cities are grappling with rising cases of dengue and chikungunya. The protest has been called by the All India Government Nurses Federation and the Delhi Nurses Federation seeking redressal of issues related to pay and allowances.
However, in Mumbai, it was business as usual for public transport while the strike evoked a mixed response in rural Maharashtra. The suburban trains, auto rickshaws, taxis and city buses continued to operate normally, without affecting the daily schedule of lakhs of commuters in Mumbai and suburbs.
Besides banking operations, the strike had no major effect on any other sector in Gujarat as all government departments functioned normally. In Tamil Nadu too the stir did not have much impact on normal life as transport services and other businesses began the day’s functioning normally.
Normal life was out of gear in Left-ruled Kerala with public transport vehicles staying off the roads and shops and business establishments downing shutters. Autorickshaws, taxies, Kerala State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) and private buses did not ply on roads with workers of various unions taking part in the strike.
AITUC said that petroleum refineries in Assam remained closed. Marketing operations in 111 depots of northern, southern, western and eastern regions remained inoperative. Due to lack of aviation fuel, some flights from Amritsar, Lucknow, Allahabad, Guwahati could not take off. In steel sector 100% strike was observed in RINL Vishakhapatnam and partial strike in SAIL Steel Plants like Bokaro (Jharkhand), Durgapur (West Bengal) Bhadravati in Karnataka and Salem plant in Tamil Nadu, it added.
All three units of Hindustan Copper at Khetri, Mowbhandar and Malajkhand remained closed. There was complete strike in automobile hub in Gurgaon in Dharuhera, Chennai and Bangalore. Hosiery units in Bangalore, Tirupur and Coimbature remained paralyzed, it said.
AITUC said that tea and coffee plantation work in Assam, Karnataka, Kerala and West Bengal remained closed. Power generation and distribution services were largely affected because of electricity workers being on protest strike in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, Maharashtra and other states, it said. AITUC further said that defence production and civilian services also remained closed. Besides scheme workers -Anganwadi, Asha, Mid-Day Meal workers and Shiksha Mitras also joined the strike. Local municipal services in many cities were badly affected.
In Tamil Nadu full strike was observed in big factory like Ashok Leyland, Royal Enfield, Eveready, MRF, foundries around Chennai. Autos were totally off the road in Chennai, it claimed.
A demonstration of bank, insurance, railways, hotels, telecom, postal, teachers, karamcharies of university and nearby areas was held on Jantar Mantar and was addressed by Central Trade Union leaders, it added. The unions will soon meet to review the strike action and chalk out future course of action, it said.
State-owned BSNL’s non-executive workers have also joined nationwide strike on Friday, which unions claim has hit customer service functions – bill payment, SIM activation and others like fault repair. However, there was no disruption in landline, mobile or broadband services.