Agencies, New Delhi The two-day nationwide strike by trade unions on its first day today got a mixed response as it affected normal life in several parts of the country while in the rest it was business as usual.
Banking operations were hit in various states as employees of public sector banks responded well to the call given by the All India Central Council of Trade Unions (AICCTU). The strike began midnight last night after no consensus emerged in talks with the UPA dispensation. The trade unions were pressing for a ten-point charter of demands including wage hike in the backdrop of rising inflation. Normal life was hit in many parts of the country. It came to a standstill in Kerala as public transport was paralysed, shops and business establishments downed their shutters and government offices registered a thin attendance on the first day of the agitation.
Police said the strike was peaceful as no untoward incident was reported from any part of the state. In Karnataka too, the general strike evoked good response with public transport remaining off the roads and attendance in banks and PSUs remaining thin.
The main thoroughfares witnessed thin traffic as schools and colleges declared holiday for two days and examinations were put off, while service in most public sector banks was badly affected. The situation remained by and large peaceful barring a few stone throwing incidents at buses in Bellary and other places. In some places, tyres were burnt in the middle of main roads by the agitators to hamper flow of traffic.
Additional Director General of police Bipin Gopalakrishna said about 90,000 policemen were deployed across the state and a strong posse of the force deployed in the city to maintain law and order. Nearly 22 lakh industrial workers, 1.1 lakh transport workers, five lakh garment factory workers and 20,000 bank employees struck work and many came on the streets in protest against the central government policies that had led to price rise and the work force deeply affected due to its anti-labour policies.
Goa, however, was not affected by the strike as life in the state was normal. Except some banks and industrial units, all other activities were normal, private and KTD buses were playing on the routes, shops and establishments were open as well as schools. In Maharashtra, the strike failed to affect normal life with Railway and BEST bus services functioning normally and taxis and autos plying as usual.
Tight security was maintained by police even as major political parties, including Shiv Sena, did not enforce the bandh. Functioning of some of the state and central government offices, including banks, insurance and telecom sectors were, however, paralysed as emplyees participated in the stir. Banking operations were totally affected as various bank unions expressed their support to the strike. The BSE and NSE were open as usual along with commodity and wholesale markets.
In Uttar Pradesh, the agitation affected normal life on its first day. Almost all the 7,000 buses of the UP State Transport Corporation along with city bus services were off the road while PSU banks, insurance and postal services were closed. Employees of UP Government and UP power corporation have also supported the strike and suspended their work. Bhartiya Majdoor Sangh (BMS), All India Trade Union Congress (INTUC), All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC), Hind Mazdoor Sabha (HMS), Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), All India United Trade Union Centre (AIUTUC) and other such organisations, cutting across party lines, are participating in the strike, protesting against the government’s ‘anti-people’ policies that include price rise, poor implementation of labour laws and disinvestment in PSUs/increased FDI in various sectors.
The protesting unions are demanding pensions for everyone along with removal of ceiling on bonus and provident fund. Apart from all the 11 trade unions, over 2,000 independent unions have also joined the protest. Meanwhile, the Union Government has stepped up security to maintain peace during the strike. The UPA government has also warned employees of ‘consequences’, including deduction in wages and disciplinary action if they take part in the protest. In a stern directive, the Department of Personnel and Training has written to secretaries of all union ministries not to sanction any kind of leave to employees during the period of the proposed strike. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Sunday had appealed to all the trade unions to withdraw their strike, saying it would cause a huge loss to the economy and inconvenience to general public.