Strike evokes mixed response on Day 2

NEW DELHI: The two-day strike by central trade unions evoked mixed response across the country Wednesday, as it entered its second day, with banking and transport services being affected partially and few incidents of violence seen in West Bengal. As many as 10 central trade unions, except Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh, are protesting against the government’s alleged anti-labour policies and unilateral labour reforms. They had given a call for a two-day Bharat Bandh on January 8 and 9.

General secretary Hind Mazdoor Sabha Harbhajan Singh Sidhu told that there is 100 per cent strike in Assam, Odisha, Manipur, Meghalaya, Maharashtra and Goa.

“We got response in Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan as well. In our protest march from Mandi House to Parliament in the capital, around 4,000 workers came on road to express their anguish…,” he added.

Normal life was affected in Goa on Wednesday as private buses and tourist taxis remained off roads. Long queues of passengers were seen at various bus stands after the private buses association in the state shut operations.

Besides, lakhs of commuters in Mumbai continued to face hardships as an indefinite strike called by BEST, the city’s civic transport undertaking, continued. There were only five buses plying on city roads.

Over 32,000 BEST employees went on an indefinite strike on Tuesday over various demands, including higher salaries.

Sporadic incidents of violence were reported from various parts of the West Bengal on Wednesday too. Stones were pelted at school buses in Howrah district. Similar incident were reported on Tuesday as well. There were similar incidents of stone pelting in other parts of the state too.

Senior CPI(M) leader Sujan Chakraborty was arrested once again on Wednesday for taking out a rally at a bus stand in Jadavpur in the southern part of the city. Chakraborty was first arrested on Tuesday for taking out a rally in support of the strike and was released in the evening.

Banking services were also partially affected for the second day, as a section of PSU bank employees came in support of the strike call.

All India Bank Employees’ Association (AIBEA) and Bank Employees’ Federation of India (BEFI) have supported the strike, which has impacted banking operation where these two unions are strong.

However, the operation in SBI and private sector banks remained unaffected as other seven unions in the banking sector are not part of the strike.

According to AIBEA general secretary C H Vekatchalam, cash transactions, clearance of cheques, remittances, bills discounting and foreign exchange transactions were impacted.

Cheques worth about Rs 20,000 crore could not be cleared by clearing houses all over the country on Tuesday, he claimed.

The report said a treasury branch of the State Bank of India in Thiruvananthapuram was attacked and trains were blocked in various parts of Kerala on Wednesday on second day of strike.

At the Thiruvananthapuram railway station, Thiruvananthapuram-Hyderabad Sabari Express and Venad Express were blocked, while the Kottayam-Nilambur passenger train in Kalamassery was held up for a while.

In many places in Kerala, shops and commercial establishments remained shut. Buses and auto-rickshaws were also off the roads in the state. Many shopkeepers alleged that they were asked to put down their shutters.

Most of the textile and spices shops in the Broadway Market in Kochi and Mittayi Theruvu (sweet street) in Kozhikode were open.

Sabarimala pilgrims, tourists, social and religious functions have been exempted from the strike.

Earlier in the day all-India Trade Union Congress General Secretary Amarjeet Kaur told that there will be a complete bandh in Goa and Bihar, while 100 per cent strike is expected in other parts of the country too.

She said that due to UGC exams, which started from Tuesday, some state transport departments would not participate completely in the strike in the interest of students.

The exams are scheduled in some states on Wednesday as well. The strike had received mixed response on Tuesday.

Educational institutes, rail, banking, postal and transport services are expected to witness disruption on Wednesday too.

The unions have alleged that the government has failed to create jobs and grossly ignored unions’ 12-point charter of demands.

They also said that the Group of Ministers headed by finance minister Arun Jaitley on labour issues has not called unions for any discussion since September 2, 2015, strike which left them with no other option but to go on another strike.

In a joint statement issued on Monday, the CTUs also alleged that the government undermined tripartism and continued its “aggressive attack with arrogance on the lives and livelihood of the working people.”

They are also opposed to the proposed amendments in Trade Union Act, 1926, saying those are irrational and extremely damaging to the independent functioning of unions.

Farming communities, through their associations, have also extended support to the strike. Student and teacher organisations of various universities have also declared support, the statement had said.

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