Nationwide workers’ strike disrupts normal life, services amid violence2 min read . Updated: 09 Jan 2020, 12:48 AM IST
- Trade unions claim stir was a success even as Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru remained relatively unaffected
- Violence erupted in Bengal while train services were blocked in many parts of the country
NEW DELHI : The nationwide strike called by workers’ unions on Wednesday sparked sporadic violence, disrupted banking and affected life in several states though the metropolitan cities of Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru remained largely unaffected.
National trade unions claimed the stir to protest planned labour reforms was a success.
“The strike action by working people in urban and rural India, small or big towns, in factories, and farms, on streets and highways was tremendous surpassing the previous strikes," the 10 national trade unions who called the strike said in a joint statement.
Violence erupted in parts of West Bengal with protesters vandalizing public property and police vehicles. Rail and road transport services were disrupted after protesters blocked trains at several railway stations, including Midnapore, Burdwan and Howrah. Striking workers affiliated with Left parties and supporters of the ruling Trinamool Congress clashed in Malda and Kolkata, leading to police action and arrests.
Chief minister Mamata Banerjee had opposed the strike call in the state.
The strike had significant impact in Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu and Tripura, the trade unions said. There was mixed response in Bihar and Jharkhand while Delhi and Karnataka saw little disruption on the roads or in public services.
Banking services, however, were hit in large parts of the country, with bank workers’ unions saying more than ₹22,000 crore of bank transactions were impacted. Some 10 unions from banking and insurance sectors and around 500,000 bank officials went on strike, claimed the unions.
“As per reports reaching us, banking transactions have been greatly affected. Cash could not be deposited or withdrawn. Many ATMs also did not function. Cheques could not be sent to clearing house. In the clearing grids, about 28 lakh cheques worth about ₹21,500 crore could not be cleared due to the strike," said C.H. Venkatachalam, general secretary of the All India Bank Employees Association.
This was the 19th nationwide workers’ strike since 1991, when the first Bharat Bandh was organized. It’s the fourth since 2015 after shutdowns in September 2015, September 2016 and January 2019. Trade unions claimed that their early assessment shows participation of over 200 million people, including employees, students, farmers and government flagship scheme workers.
The central government had warned its employees not to join the strike as such a step would be a violation of their service conditions. Apart from the structure in West Bengal, the administration in Bengaluru asked people not to disturb public life.
Central trade unions have a 12-point charter of demands including a minimum wage of ₹21,000 per month, more jobs, rolling back of policies promoting contractualization of the workforce and privatization of profit-making public sector firms, and talks on labour reforms and a universal pension system.
While leaders of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and its affiliated trade union Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh claimed that the strike floundered, Opposition political parties called it a huge success. Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said he saluted the working class and alleged that the government’s “anti-people, anti-labour" policies have created catastrophic unemployment in the country.