The nationwide, one-day general strike called by trade unions on Tuesday to protest the Centre's “neo-liberal economic and anti-labour” policies and to highlight the “soaring” prices of essential commodities received a mixed response. The working of banks and insurance firms was affected in many States, as were transport services, including trains.
The unions claimed that 10 crore workers and employees of both the organised and unorganised sectors took part in the strike. “It was unprecedented, and such a massive participation of workers in a strike was witnessed for the first time in India's history,” they said.
In many States, government and private buses, auto-rickshaws and taxis went off the road. Train services were affected in some States owing to picketing by protesters, who were later removed by the police. There was no report of flight operations being hit. Shops and other business establishments also were closed in some parts of the country.
While the public sector banks did not function, some private sector and foreign banks worked, doing as they did only limited transactions, with the RBI's clearinghouses remained shut.
As a precaution, some State governments declared a holiday for educational institutions. And in some other States, even employees of the public as well as private sectors abstained from work.
In New Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Hyderabad and Bangalore, life was affected to some extent. In Delhi, autos and taxis went off the road and the traffic volume thinned, as a local holiday was declared in the neighbouring places of Noida, Ghaziabad, Sahibabad and Indirapuram in Uttar Pradesh, which went to the polls.
Interestingly, the Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC), affiliated to the Congress that heads the ruling coalition at the Centre, and the Labour Progressive Front of the DMK, a major ally of the UPA, participated in the strike. The BMS of the BJP joined hands with such Left unions as the CITU and the AITUC. The other Central trade unions that participated in the protest were the HMS, the AIUTUC, the UTUC, the TUCC and the SEWA. The unions affiliated to the Shiv Sena and the Muslim League too backed the strike.
The other demands were the scrapping of the contract system, an amendment to the Minimum Wages Act, an assured pension for all and compulsory registration of trade unions. To ensure uninterrupted power supply in the capital, the Delhi government invoked the Essential Service Maintenance Act on Monday night.