Calling for better laws guaranteeing minimum wages and social security, the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) commenced their 2-day nationwide general strike on Tuesday. As many as 10 central trade unions with at least 20 crore workers affiliated to them have joined the 18th Bharat Bandh, against what they describe as the Modi government’s repressive anti-worker policies and unilateral reforms.
Strikers have voiced complaints including painfully stagnant job growth, rising prices, and the government’s divestment policies in light of the recent mergers of debt-ridden state-run banks. Instances of vandalism, rail and road blockades were reported throughout the day, partially hitting normal life in West Bengal, Kerala, Telangana, Delhi and a few other states.
In a joint statement, the CTUs alleged that the government. in undermining has continued to attack “the lives and livelihood of the working people.” They also accused the government of arrogantly ignoring the 12-point Charter of Demands on labour codes, minimum wage, universal social security, workers status and including pay and facilities for the scheme workers, as well as their demands against of public and government sector including financial sectors.
They also denounced the proposed amendments to the Trade Union Act, 1926, which seek to statutorily recognise unions but at the behest of the government’s discretion. The CTUs called out the introduction of these changes on the grounds of transparency as irrational and extremely damaging to the independent functioning of unions. The amendments could further enslave workers and rob them of their basic rights, said Tapan Sen, General Secretary of CITU.
Sen told TOI that most independent federations of public sector employees, sector workers, port and dock workers, student bodies, and insurance and telecom employees would also observe the strike to protest against growing economic crisis and unemployment. Farmers’ associations and even bank unions expressed solidarity with the strike, both of which had staged similar protests last year against a number of issues specific to each sector.
The strike is being supported by All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC), Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC), Self Employed Womens Association (SEWA)and Labour Progressive Federation (LPF) among others following the National Convention of Workers held on September 28.
The strike registered sporadic instances of violence in some states. Protesters clashed with police on the first day of the bandh in several parts of the country, under the aegis of Left wing labour associations.
Here’s what happened across key states
In Kolkata, senior CPI(M) leader Sujan Chakraborty along with several other strike supporters detained by the police as protestors squatted on tracks near Jadavpur to stop trains and burnt tires to block roads. Elsewhere in the state, clashes erupted between CPM and TMC workers who have opposed the 48-hour Bharat Bandh call. The Mamata Banerjee-led West Bengal government has denied casual leave or half-day leave to its employees for the two days.
The trade unions are demanding minimum wages and social security schemes, among others. The major trade unions on strike include INTUC, AITUC and CITU, among others.
Follow live updates: https://t.co/W1LqqMykWz#BharatBandh pic.twitter.com/NDDo1H9825 Hindustan Times (@htTweets) January 8, 2019
Although the bandh begat a lukewarm response in the south, Kerala and Karnataka felt the impact of the strike, as public transport remained suspended for most of the day. Employees attached to the CPI(M)-led Government Press took out a protest march at midnight in Kerala’s capital city, Thiruvananthapuram. Protesters blocked railway tracks across Kerala due to which many trains were running behind schedule. State bus services were disrupted across Karnataka.
“We expect over 20 lakh workers and employees of various private, government and unorganised sectors to participate in the 48-hour strike. Emergency service providers such as hospitals are exempted from the strike. Railway employees are not directly participating in the strike. But they will hold protest rallies at their respective offices during lunch hour,” M Saibabu Telangana CITU General secretary told PTI.
Traffic was also disrupted along the National Highway 16 in Odisha’s Bhubaneswar over protests led by members of various Central Trade Unions. Members of the All India Central Council of Trade Unions (AICCTU) held protests in Delhi’s Patparganj industrial area.
“The strike is quite visible in Assam, Meghalaya, Karnataka, Manipur Bihar, Rajasthan, Goa, Punjab, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh Haryanaparticularly in the targeted industrial areas and different mines,” Amarjeet Kaur, General Secretary of All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC), told PTI.
Banking operations were affected in some parts of the country on Tuesday as a section of employees did not work in solidarity with the strikers, although the State Bank Of India and private sector banks remained unaffected entirely by it.
Trade unions, farmers’ and teachers’ bodies are expected to continue agitating with the same steam, hitting transport and banking till January 9
We will go on march from Mandi House to parliament in New Delhi on Wednesday. Similar protests would be done across the country, Kaur said.
Prarthana Mitra is a staff writer at Qrius