The day-long Bharat Bandh called by 10 trade unions witnessed normal life being hit in several states including Assam, Kerala, Odisha, West Bengal and Bihar while garnering a lukewarm response in some states including Maharashtra, Karnataka and Tripura.
Incidents of violence and arson were reported from various parts of Bengal while the bandh went peacefully in other states. Fifty-five persons were arrested in Kolkata alone for trying to forcibly enforce the bandh called by trade unions INTUC, AITUC, HMS, CITU, AIUTUC, TUCC, SEWA, AICCTU, LPF, UTUC, along with various sectoral independent federations and associations. Their demands included a minimum pension of Rs 6,000 for everyone, minimum support price (MSP) for farmers and adequate supply of ration to people.
West Bengal strike turns violent
In West Bengal, strikers attempting to enforce the bandh vandalised buses, blocked roads and railway tracks and attacked government properties in parts of West Bengal, affecting normal life.
Protesters burnt tyres and blocked roads in various parts of the East Burdwan district, besides staging a sit-in on railway tracks. In Malda, protesters blocked a major road in Sujapur area, set tyres on fire, ransacked government buses and torched several vehicles, including a police van. When the police tried to control the situation, they hurled stones and crude bombs. The police then baton-charged the mob, lobbed teargas shells and fired rubber bullets, officials said.
In East Midnapore district, stones were hurled at buses, following which the protesters clashed with the police, leading to several arrests, officials said. Several buses were also vandalised in Cooch Behar districts by the protesters.
The bandh supporters tried to break past barricades in Kolkata's Central Avenue area, prompting police to use force. Several strikers were held, officials said.
In Dum Dum and Lake Town, clashes broke out between Left supporters, who took out rallies in support of the strike, and TMC supporters who were opposing it. A huge police contingent was rushed to the spot to control the situation, the police said. CPM legislature party leader Sujan Chakraborty was detained for instigating violence in Jadavpur, officials said.
Hitting out at the Left and the Congress, West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee said that those who don't have any political existence in the state are trying to ruin its economy by pursuing "cheap politics" of strikes. She referred to an incident of bombs being found on railway tracks in North 24 Parganas district during the strike and accused Left parties of engaging in hooliganism and violence.
"Strikes called by Left trade unions earlier were rejected by people. They want to get cheap publicity by calling bandhs and hurling bombs at buses," Banerjee said.
However, CPM's Mohammed Salim blamed the chief minister for instigating violence. "None of the protesters or strike supporters were involved in violence. It is Mamata Banerjee who instigated the violence. The TMC cadres and police personnel in order to please the chief minister indulged in arson. Despite threats, the strike has been successful in Bengal," Salim said.
The CPM leader's view was echoed by Congress party leader in Lok Sabha, Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, who, too, blamed Banerjee for inciting violence.
Protests held in Bihar, Assam, Kerala; 800 arrested in Tamil Nadu
In Bihar, where Left parties had extended their support to the strike, thousands took to the streets in the state capital, Patna, carrying gigantic banners inscribed with slogans in support of their demands and critical of "divisive government policies". A large number of Anganwadi workers, wearing headbands inscribed with slogans opposing the Labour Code Bill and demanding regularisation of jobs and increase in wages were also seen among the protesters. Auto-rickshaws stayed off the roads, causing inconvenience to commuters.
Demonstrations were also held in Begusarai, Nawada and Bhagalpur districts of Bihar. Less than normal attendance was recorded at banks, government offices and educational institutions where those owing allegiance to the trade unions involved in the strike stayed off work.
Normal life was disrupted across Odisha too with trade union activists, backed by supporters of the Left parties and the Congress, blocked railway tracks and roads in support of the 24-hour strike. Shops and business establishments remained shut in most parts of the state. Educational institutes were also closed in many districts. Banking operations were hit, while the strikers kept emergency services such as hospitals and ambulances out of the purview.
In Assam, too, normal life was affected with vehicles remaining off the streets and petrol pump, markets and educational institutions remaining closed. Though most private offices were not operating, state government offices remained open with employees attending work.
Among the southern states, normal life was affected in Left-ruled Kerala, with the public transport services keeping off the roads and government staff staying off work. Roads across the state wore a deserted look as Kerala State Transport Corporation (KSRTC), private buses, autorickshaws and taxis stayed away but a few private vehicles were seen plying.
Schools and colleges had declared a holiday for Wednesday and three major universities in the state had postponed all the examinations. PSU bank branches, shops, hotels and other business establishments were also shut across the state.
With trade unions of the ruling CPM-led LDF and Opposition Congress-headed UDF participating in the strike, most of the government staff did not turn up at the Secretariat in Kochi. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and other ministers also did not attend office. Train services remained unaffected, as did metro services in Kochi. Operations at Kochi port continued with just 57 percent of the staff in attendance on a day when trade unions held massive rallies across all towns in the state.
In Andhra Pradesh, leaders of the Congress, CPI and CPM were taken into custody as they staged a sit-in protest on the highway outside the RTC bus station in Vijayawada. Reports said employees stayed off duties in various public sector undertakings, mostly in Visakhapatnam. Most of the banks remained shut. Rallies were taken out by the Left parties and trade unions in major towns and cities of the state, opposing the policies of the Central Government.
Two MPs of Left parties were among 800 workers of eight trade unions who were arrested while attempting to stage a demonstration near the district collectorate in Tamil Nadu's Coimbatore. The demonstration was led by CPI Lok Sabha MP, K Subbaryan, who is also Tamil Nadu AITUC president and CPM MP, PR Natarajan. Similar protests were also held at Valparai, Pollachi and Mettupalayam in the district and Tirupur, police told PTI. Auto rickshaws remained off the roads in Coimbatore while buses, both government and private continued to ply normally.
Lukewarm response in Maharashtra, Delhi and BJP-ruled states
The strike evoked a mixed response in BJP-ruled Tripura where banks and offices of financial institutions remained shut in most places even as train services and vehicles operated as usual. Shops and markets remained open in most parts of the state and attendance in the majority of government offices, including the civil secretariat, were near normal. Several BJP-backed organisations were out on the streets against the strike.
The BJP-ruled Karnataka witnessed a mixed response to the strike with transport services, schools, colleges and business establishments functioning normally. However, there was some impact of the strike at the Agriculture Produce Marketing Committee (APMC) yards where labourers did not turn up. In Mangaluru, inter-state services of Kerala State Road Transport Corporation were suspended. Some miscreants pelted a Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation bus with stones in Madikeri town in Kodagu district this morning.
In Telangana, barring banking services being hit, normal life remained unaffected. Most of the shops and business establishments were open while transport services remained unaffected. The strike by as many as three lakh employees and workers passed off peacefully with the participation of members of various trade unions in the state, senior leader of Telangana CPI, Sudhakar said.
Mining activities in Jharkhand were affected due to the general strike, claimed trade union leaders, even as officials asserted that the situation was normal in the sector. The strike, however, did not impact normal life in the state with public transport plying as usual and markets and other commercial establishments operating normally.
Postal services were affected in Nagaland due to the strike called by trade unions, even as it didn't have any impact on normal life with vehicles plying and markets remaining open. The banking sector also did not have much impact, but employees of the Central Bank of India at its Kohima and Dimapur branches joined the strike.
Trade unions held protests in Shimla and other parts of Himachal Pradesh in response to the nationwide strike call despite heavy snowfall and rain. However, shops, business establishments and transport services functioned normally.
— ANI (@ANI) January 8, 2020
Banking services were partially hit in Gujarat, while transport services continued normally. Although trade unions claimed that factory production was hit in many parts of Gujarat, industrialists said it was business as usual. Meanwhile, leaders from the farming community stated that farmers have also stayed away from the Bharat bandh. "Hardly any farmer or any organisation working for them have joined the strike," Sagar Rabari of Khedut Ekta Manch said.
The national capital largely remained unaffected by the Bharat Bandh, though most industrial workers stayed away from work. Metro and the Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) services functioned normally despite the strike call. Officials said no trains have been affected in the national capital, but some Delhi-bound trains from Odisha and West Bengal could be affected. Widespread intermittent rains in the national capital also reduced the intensity of the strike.
The industrial areas of Mayapuri and Wazirabad witnessed protest march. At the ITO, workers affiliated to Left unions gathered in support of the general strike called by the 10 central trade unions against the Central Government's "anti-worker" policies, ANI reported.
— ANI (@ANI) January 8, 2020
A similar situation was observed in Madhya Pradesh where bank employees, except those of the State Bank of India, participated in the strike. While the strike impacted banking and postal services in Jhabua and Sehore districts, markets and petrol pumps remained open in the entire state.
Normal life remained unaffected so far in Goa, even as various labour unions held a public meeting under the banner of the 'Goa Convention of Workers' at the Azad Maidan in Panaji. Most of the banks, including nationalised ones, functioned normally, while only a few private industries recorded low attendance.
The strike evoked little response in Uttarakhand and in Maharashtra, with transport and banking services remaining largely unaffected in many districts of the western state as well as in the country's financial capital Mumbai. Public transport services, including buses, suburban trains, Metro and monorail services continued to function smoothly.
In Pune, Trade union leader Ajit Abhyankar claimed that at least 15,000 people affiliated to various central trade unions, Bhartiya Kamgar Sena, posts, banks, and other government establishments participated in a public rally outside the district collectorate. He said 70 percent of factories and manufacturing units in Pimpri Chinchwad, Bhosari, Chakan and Ranjangaon MIDC around Pune remained closed. Transport and other services remained largely unaffected in other parts of the state, including in the cities of Kolhapur and Solapur.
With inputs from PTI
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Updated Date: Jan 08, 2020 21:11:29 IST