In somewhat of an unprecedented development, arch rivals CITU and INTUC found themselves on the same side of the political divide putting their shoulders together to make the all India strike a complete success in State on Tuesday.
Leaders of the two Central trade unions led workers' marches across the State and spoke the same language about the impact of the new economic policies on the lives of the working class as the strike call found a chord among the industrial workers and other sections of the working population in the State, leaving normal life paralysed for the entire duration of the 24-hour strike.
The State INTUC leadership had overlooked murmurs within its ranks and in the State Congress leadership to join the strike, which was called jointly by it and seven other Central trade unions, to press for a universally applicable public distribution system (PDS) across the country to check price rise, strict implementation of labour laws and roll back of PSU privatisation.
Malappuram district, which was the scene of a major hooch mishap claiming 23 lives on Monday, was exempted from the strike at the last minute. So were parts of Kottayam on account of the popular annual feast at the Manarcad St. Mary's Church.
With the other major Central trade unions taking the lead in organising the strike, almost every walk of life felt its impact in the State. The strike hit the functioning of the Kochi port and shipyard, major industrial units in the Eloor industrial belt and important markets in Kochi. The same was the case with industrial units and markets both in the public and private sectors elsewhere in the State.
Major airlines cancelled their flights scheduled for the day. Although train services operated normally, those who travelled by them were stranded at various railway stations for want of road transport to their destinations. In some places, the police came to the rescue of stranded passengers. The Kerala Public Service Commission and various universities had cancelled examinations and interviews scheduled for the day in view of the strike call.
Except for a few private vehicles, mostly two-wheelers, there was no vehicular traffic on arterial roads. The Kerala State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC), the single major public transport outfit, did not operate buses. Private buses, taxi cars and autorickshaws also stayed off the roads in most parts of the State. With most service and teachers' organisations endorsing the strike call, the State secretariat and most government offices and educational institutions did not function.
The strike was total in the banking sector with employees of public sector and nationalised banks, scheduled commercial banks and even the new generation banks and NABARD joining the strike. Hospitals, milk supply and newspapers had been exempted from the strike.
In Thiruvananthapuram, the trade unions took out a march in the city and held a meeting to mark the strike. Mayor C. Jayan Babu; CPI(M) district secretary Kadakampally Surendran; S.S. Potty, V. Sivan Kutty, MLA, and Kattakkada Sasi (CITU); M.S. Rawther, Vithura Sasi and V. Prathapachandran (INTUC); K.P. Sankaradas, Kuttiyanikkad Madhu and Pattom Sasidharan (AITUC); G. Maheen Abubaker (STU); George Sebastian (KTUC) and G. Sugunan (AIUTUC) participated in the march and public meeting.