Normal life thrown out of gear as trade union strike is observed across the nation
Millions of workers across the country on Wednesday went on a 24-hour strike to protest against changes in labour laws and privatisation of PSUs, affecting life in most of the cities.
More than 15 crore workers from 10 central trade unions, including those in the banking, manufacturing, construction and coal mining sectors, are taking part in the strike. BJP-backed BMS and NFITU are not part of the agitation.
The strike hit transport and banking operations across the country. Long lines of commuters and school children could be seen at bus stops early in the morning, while passengers were stranded at airports as taxis and rickshaws stayed off the streets.
“Employees of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), nationalised banks, old private sector banks, cooperative banks, regional rural banks are participating in the strike,” All India Bank Employees’ Association (AIEBA) general secretary CH Venkatachalam told IANS.
Trade unions’ 12-point charter of demands includes urgent measures to contain price rise, contain unemployment, strict enforcement of basic labour laws, universal social security cover for all workers and minimum wage of Rs 15,000 per month.The unions are demanding that the government dump plans to sell off stake in state-run companies to boost the public purse and to shut down unproductive factories. They are also opposed to the government’s proposed labour reforms expected to diminish the influence of trade unions and make the labour market more flexible.
Clashes were also reported in the capital city of Kolkata where women activists from the Left were seen being dragged by the police in the Dharmatala area. Roads in the city are mostly deserted with bank branches, shops and other businesses closed. Many schools are closed too. Buses, taxis and autorickshaws are off roads.
Labour minister Bandaru Dattatreya said the strike will not have much impact on essential services. “I appeal to them to call off the strike in the interest of workers and nation,” said labour minister Bandaru Dattatreya. “I don’t think essential services will be affected. I feel that the impact will not be much. BMS and National Front of Indian Trade Unions are not in strike. There are 2-4 organisations (unions) which are neutral.