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A Punjab National Bank (PNB) branch wear a deserted during trade unions' nationwide strike, in Mumbai on  8 Jan. 2020 (Photo: PTI)
A Punjab National Bank (PNB) branch wear a deserted during trade unions' nationwide strike, in Mumbai on 8 Jan. 2020 (Photo: PTI)

Bharat Bandh: Strike over govt’s economic policies disrupts banks, transport services

  • About 250 million people across at least 12 states including Kerala, West Bengal, Bihar, Odisha and Assam participated in the nationwide strike, said Tapan Sen, general secretary CITU
  • The 1-day Bharat Bandh has been called by 10 trade unions, affiliated to communist parties, Congress

NEW DELHI : India’s transport and banking services were disrupted on Wednesday as millions of employees joined a strike called by the country’s major trade unions to protest against Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s economic policies.

About 250 million people across at least 12 states including Kerala, West Bengal, Bihar, Odisha and Assam participated in the nationwide strike, said Tapan Sen, general secretary of the Centre of Indian Trade Unions. Farmers in many of the states also joined in road blockades, he said.

The one-day stoppage has been called by 10 trade unions, affiliated to communist parties and the opposition Congress party. They’re demanding the government rein in price rises and unemployment, provide social security for workers, stop disinvestment in certain state-owned companies and halt overseas investment in railways, insurance, coal and defense sectors. The trade unions are seeking “reversal of the anti-worker, anti-people, anti-national policies of the government," they said in a joint statement.

Members of CITU block the Trivandrum Express during the nationwide ‘Bharat Bandh’, in Guwahati
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Members of CITU block the Trivandrum Express during the nationwide ‘Bharat Bandh’, in Guwahati (Photo: PTI)

The union affiliated with Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party, which claims 10 million members, did not participate in the strike.

Rising unrest

An estimated 500,000 of the 850,000 employees at state-run banks will participate today, C.H. Venkatachalam, general secretary, All India Bank Employees’ Association, said. Although State Bank of India (SBI), the nation’s largest, has stayed out of the strike, operations of all other state-run banking and insurance institutions will be affected, he said.

Anganbadi workers raise slogans during a nationwide strike called by trade unions, in Patna, Wednesday Jan. 8, 2020.
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Anganbadi workers raise slogans during a nationwide strike called by trade unions, in Patna, Wednesday Jan. 8, 2020. (Photo: PTI)

“We are concerned about the planned changes in labor laws and the government’s plans to privatize and merge banks without attacking the main problem of bad loans," Venkatachalam said.

Still, the government ruled out any impact from the stoppages.

“They have been doing this type of strikes in every one or two years with many demands," said Prakash Javadekar, the minister for information and broadcasting who interacts with media on government policy. “It has no impact."

Protesters carrying the Triclour display placards and raise slogans during a rally against the CAA, NRC and NPR, in Ranchi, Wednesday
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Protesters carrying the Triclour display placards and raise slogans during a rally against the CAA, NRC and NPR, in Ranchi, Wednesday (Photo: PTI)

The strike is being held at a time when Modi is grappling with the slowest economic growth since 2009, an unemployment rate that’s surged to a more than four-decade high and mass protests against his Hindu nationalist agenda.While general strikes are not uncommon in India, Wednesday’s protests mark the latest in a string of street demonstrations. Modi has been facing opposition over his new religion-based citizenship law and Sunday’s violent attacks on students and academics by masked assailants in Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University.


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