First day of nationwide trade union strike turns violent in industrial area

Several vehicles were torched and industrial units vandalised by protesters who turned violent and clashed with factory owners in Noida on Wednesday during the first day of the two-day nationwide strike by central trade unions. The police have arrested 60 people on charges of rioting, arson, robbery and causing damage to public property. In contrast, Gurgaon remained by and large peaceful.

While some trade union leaders alleged that two persons were killed in the police lathicharge that triggered the violence in Noida, the police issued a denial. All-India Trade Union Congress general secretary and Lok Sabha member Gurudas Dasgupta said no death was reported during the protests in Noida. The police have registered 60 cases and are examining CCTV footage of factories to identify those involved. Extra force has been summoned to prevent further violence in the industrial pockets.

Earlier on Wednesday, hundreds of workers participating in the strike gathered in the industrial area of Sector 82-83 in Noida Phase 2 and called on those working in the factories located at Hosiery Complex to join the protest. When confronted by the factory owners and their men, a large group of workers turned violent and set ablaze vehicles parked in the area. They vandalised the factories, smashed glass panes and allegedly took away from there whatever they could lay their hands on. The mob targeted two fire tenders that reached the spot to douse the blaze.

While protests were also reported in Sectors 56, 59, 60, 68 and 81 of Noida, the workers clashed with the police at Labour Chowk in Sector 57.

Condemning the violence, the Noida Entrepreneurs’ Association alleged that over 1,000 factory units were targeted, 35 vehicles torched and 110 vehicles damaged. They accused the police of inaction, stating that the association had intimated the force in advance, expressing apprehension that the protesters might indulge in violence. The association, which in its meeting on Wednesday took a unanimous decision to keep the factories operational on the second day of the protest, demanded compensation and stringent action against the labour unions involved and also against the administrative and police officers who failed to react in time.

The association, through a letter on Tuesday, demanded adequate security from the police for the industrial units in view of the strike call.

While no violence was reported in neighbouring Gurgaon, production in the Gurgaon-Manesar automobile sector is expected to come to a halt on Thursday as workers’ unions of major automobile industries have decided to stay away from work.

“All the major unions, including those of Maruti Suzuki, Honda, Hero Motocorp, Sona Koyo Steering Systems and Munjal Auto have decided to take part in the strike on Thursday. It would have a huge impact on production in the automobile sector in the region as the ancillary units would also be forced to shut down their business for a day. Except in a few garments factories, industrial activity is expected to be come to a standstill on Thursday,” said All-India Trade Unions Gurgaon general-secretary Anil Pawar.

The two-day “Bharat Bandh” call evoked a mixed response in Gurgaon on the first day — banking services and public transport were badly hit, but most of the commercial establishments, shopping malls and major automobile industries functioned as usual. No major incident of violence was reported. There was a minor clash between Haryana Roadways employees and the police near the bus stand.

Banking services were affected the most as all the public sector banks across the city remained closed, though privates banks worked as usual. A senior ICICI bank official posted in the Sector 15 branch said the private banks witnessed a huge rush of customers, who visited the bank mostly for business transactions. Most of the Haryana Roadways buses also remained off the road, though autorickshaws plied as usual. Electricity board and post-office employees also supported the strike.

A large number of activists of the All-India Trade Union Congress, the Centre of Indian Trade Unions and the Karamchari Mahasangh staged a sit-in near the local bus stand throughout the day raising slogans against the anti-labour policies of the government.

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