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Industrial workers, bank employees and students went on a strike on Wednesday in parts of the country against what they termed the anti-labour policies of the government as well as the Citizenship (Amendment) Act.
Ten central trade unions had issued a call for the ‘Bharat bandh’ to demand that the government halt the merger of public sector banks, disinvestment of pubic sector undertakings and the ongoing process of codification of 44 labour laws. With the government passing the CAA in Parliament in December and protests against the law breaking out across the country, the unions demanded that the law be rolled back.
Tapan Sen, general secretary of the Centre of Indian Trade Unions, said there was a bandh in Kerala, Tripura, Assam, Bihar, Punjab, Odisha, Tamil Nadu, Telangana and Goa. At a protest march in Delhi’s ITO area, Amarjeet Kaur, general secretary of the All-India Trade Union Congress, said the Narendra Modi government was trying to help employers “in the name of ease of doing business” by bringing out four labour codes. With industrial workers, bank employees and drivers’ union, students from the Ambedkar University Delhi and other institutes joined the march.
Partial in Delhi
However, the impact of the strike was partial in Delhi, with post offices, banks and transport services running smoothly. But workers in some factories in the industrial areas of Okhla and Wazirpur, where protest marches and picketing took place, struck work.
In West Bengal, incidents of violence and arson were reported, with buses, a police vehicle and government property being vandalised by those trying to enforce the strike.
Life was hit in Kerala, with the public transport services off the roads and banking services cut. The 24 hour strike was total in the state. Roads wore a deserted look as Kerala State Transport Corporation (KSRTC) and private buses, auto-rickshaws and taxis did not ply. A few private vehicles were seen on the roads.
In Madhya Pradesh, banking and postal services were hit. Income tax officials also struck work, along with anganwadi and cement factory workers, and insurance company employees.
The strike evoked mixed response in Punjab, while in neighboring Haryana, partial impact was seen. Members of different outfits of public sector banks, farmers, state roadways and post offices in both the States protested at several places while it rained. Members of the All-India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee protested to draw the government’s attention to the widespread agrarian distress. Several farmers did not send anything (vegetables, dairy produce etc.) for sale to the urban areas.
The bandh call had partial impact in Bihar. Transport and business establishments were open at most of the places. However, banks were closed and customers had to rely on ATMs to withdraw money. In Patna, bandh supporters took out a protest march holding red flags and shouting slogans against the government’s policies. At the Rajendranagar railway terminal, some bandh supporters tried to disrupt the movement of trains but the railway police force dispersed them by use of mild force.
In the National Capital Region’s Ghaziabad, hundreds of workers protested under the banner of CITU in the Sahibabad Industrial Area.“The Yogi Adityanath government tried to terrorise workers by showing the fear of Section 144, but by turning out in large numbers in an inclement weather in Ghaziabad and Noida, the workers have shown they are united against the anti-labour polices of the BJP,” said Anurag Saxena, general secretary of CITU’s Delhi-NCR unit.
Former Congress president Rahul Gandhi supported the strike, saying the Modi government’s “anti-people and anti-labour” policies have created catastrophic unemployment in the country.
“The Modi-Shah Government’s anti people, anti labour policies have created catastrophic unemployment and are weakening our PSUs to justify their sale to Modi’s crony capitalist friends,” he said in a tweet. “Today, over 25 crore workers have called for Bharat Bandh 2020 in protest. I salute them,” he said.
(With inputs from bureaus and PTI)
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