Bharat bandh: Labour unions’ strike evokes mixed response, Kerala worst hit

At least 10 of the 12 national trade unions and hundreds of their affiliates began a day-long strike across India on Friday, with union chiefs claiming that up to 18 crore workers have deserted factories and offices to join the protest, seeking better wage and job and social security, among other issues.
Though metros like New Delhi and Mumbai did not see many disruptions except those in their industrial belts, the impact was severe in states like Kerala, Tripura, parts of Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, Odisha and Bihar.
In Left bastion Kerala, the essential services like banking and transport were affected most. Both private and government offices were shut, Left union leaders even blocked a gathering of officials of the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) from going to office.
In Bengaluru, though the private companies were running as usual, the transport service and educational institutions were mostly shut. In Karnataka, the ruling Congress government is supporting of the strike.
In parts of Odisha and West Bengal, strike supporters stopped rail services affecting the normal movement of dozens of trains.
Industrial zones in Gurgaon and Manesar in Haryana saw good response to the strike call though police detained at least a dozen workers’ leaders in Manesar from taking out rallies.
A section of state-run banks, insurance and postal employees were on leave, while the factory workers of more than 25 sectors in industrial zones, tens of thousands of non-executive mine workers, including those from Coal India Ltd, and port employees joined the strike.
Lakhs of workers from the unorganized sector, including people manning the flagship scheme of the Union government like mid-day meal workers and ‘Anganwadi’ volunteers joined the strike.
Workers in central public sector undertakings like Coal India, GAIL, ONGC Ltd, NTPC Ltd, OIL Ltd and Bhel Ltd are also on strike, said
DL Sachdeva, national secretary of the All India Trade Union Congress.
There were incidents of violence from states like Haryana, West Bengal, Odisha, Kerala and industrial towns of Karnataka.
In Left strongholds of Kerala and Tripura, the effect was strong, while it was a mixed bag in West Bengal, with the ruling Trinamool Congress asking its supporters and state government employees not to join the strike.
Also Read: India’s labour unions are learning how to protest
“In Bengal, we are getting good response despite opposition from the ruling government,” Centre of Indian Trade Unions general secretary Tapan Sen said.
West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee and her party leaders however said that the strike is a failure in the state where people are celebrating “Singur Diwas”.
The Supreme Court on 31 August termed the 2006 acquisition of nearly 1,000 acres of land in West Bengal’s Singur district illegal and void. The land, acquired by the state government, was meant for Tata Motors Ltd’s plant to build the world’s cheapest car, the Nano.
“The strike trike will be a complete failure in the state. I will be monitoring the entire work personally. Even though I will be out of the state but I will monitor the situation. My appeal to everybody is to reject the strike for the development of the state,” Press Trust of India quoted Banerjee as saying before leaving for a foreign tour.
And social media is full of protest stories-some in favour and others against,
On twitter, #BharatBandh is a top trending topic in India. Meanwhile, the Union government has mounted a counter campaign against the labour strikes. While the Union government came out with newspaper advertisements to showcase their pro-worker decisions in the last two years. Labour minister Bandaru Dattatterya put out several multimedia messages on social media to reinforce the government claim of its pro-workers initiative and his labour ministry-run Employees’ Provident Fund Organization (EPFO) is sending millions of messages to EPF subscribers about how the Union government has hiked the minimum wage of unskilled workers without mentioning that the hike is only for employees engaged in sectors under Central government jurisdiction.
“Government announces 43% hike in the minimum wages for unskilled non-agriculture workers for ‘C’ category areas: wages fixed at Rs.350 per day. (pro-workers initiative)-Bandaru Dattatreya, labour and employment minister, India,” read one such text message from the EPFO.

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