One killed in Ambala, workers attacked in Noida

Violence, including attack on those who turned up for work in Noida, burning of their cars and other vehicles, and mowing down of a trade unionist in Ambala district of Haryana, marred the first day of the two-day all-India general strike called by 11 central trade unions.

In Ambala, local leader Narinder Singh was fatally knocked down by a State-owned roadways bus, which he and his fellow protesters attempted to stop.

The strike call evoked mixed response across the country on Wednesday.

The functioning of banks, insurance companies, transport, coal, telecom and oil industries, central and State government undertakings, and Central/State government offices in many places was affected. Kerala, Tripura, Bihar were among the worst-affected States.

In Delhi, government offices functioned as usual but not many autos or taxis were seen on the road. In some States there was only lukewarm response.

Stray incidents of violence occurred in Odisha and Karnataka. There was only partial response in Tamil Nadu with shops open as usual, and taxis and auto-rickshaws plying normally in some cities. Workers took out rallies, held protest meetings, dharnas near their place of work in various cities across the country.

Commuters, patients, students, vendors, and those arriving at or going to airports, bus stands, railway stations and offices were put to great hardship due to non-availability of transport in many places.

However, flight and train operations remained unaffected. The unions were demanding, among other things, check on price rise, more employment generation, better social security to the unorganised workers, ban on contract labour system, and fixing minimum wages at Rs. 10,000 a month.

AITUC general secretary and CPI MP Gurudas Dasgupta claimed that the strike was “unprecedented” and received massive response on day one. It reflected the people’s anger against the government and its policies, he said.

Normal life paralysed in Tripura

Syed Sajjad Ali adds:

Normal life and business came to a standstill in Tripura as trade unions enforced two-day nationwide general strike commenced on Wednesday morning. The strike called by 11 trade unions evoked complete response across the state with business establishments and educational institutions remaining closed.

Government offices recorded very thin attendance while vehicular movement was off the road. No untoward incident reported from anywhere in the state.

The strikers organised picketing outside some government offices. Emergency services and all activities relating to assembly election were kept out of general strike.

The 48 hour bandh also affected functioning in ONGC in state. ONGC workers’ Union supported 10-point demands of the trade unions.

The workers’ union however informed that the staffs engaged in gas exploration and distribution units have joined duty. ONGC is providing gas to state’s thermal power projects and is partner of ambitious 726MW power plant at Palatana in south Tripura.

Train services hit in Bihar

Patna: The trade union strike hit train services in Bihar as Left unions staged rail rokos, leaving local and outstation passengers stranded at various stations in Bihar.

Members of several unions, namely All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC), All India United Trade Union Centre (AIUTUC) and supporters of all the Left parties sat in dharna at Patna’s Dak Bungalow square. They marched to the Patna junction and staged a rail rook, blocking trains and tracks.

At the Patna junction, rail announcements relayed information on train delays owing to the “jan andolan.” Passengers had to face delays of over two hours as trains were stalled in their tracks. The Magadh Express was terminated in Patna and other trains were rescheduled.

Big shops in key locations downed their shutters. Banks and government offices were also found to be shut. Fewer autos plied on the roads, cycle rickshaws were deterred from operating, while several main routes were barred for movement of vehicles. In some places in Bihar, protestors pelted stones at buses and vehicles. Outside the Patna junction, protestors burnt tyres.

Anganwadi sevikas and helpers joined the strike in large numbers. “The government promised that anganwadi workers would be considered for promotions, but they have not kept their word. We are surviving on Rs. 3,000 a month. Our condition is worse that that of the labourer,” Asha Devi, an Anganwadi sevika said. Many complained that the government funds for buying provisions for the mid0day meal were not consummate with the rise in prices.

In addition, Beedi workers and pan stall owners also lent their support to the strike.

Besides the main demands of rolling back foreign direct investment and reining in inflation, the strike also called for security of women at work place, ending crimes against women, implementation of the Justice Verma panel’s recommendations, cracking down on spurious liquor.

“The response has been great in Bihar,” Deepankar Bhattacharya, general secretary CPI (ML) (Liberation) told The Hindu. “All trade unions, farmers, unorganised sector workers, bank employees have all supported the bandh. Common people have also joined in since the issues raised are not limited to the labourers. Inflation, price rise, land acquisition are concerns in the entire country. We have also demanded the implementation of Verma committee recommendations in the upcoming budget session. We also want the government to declare prohibition in the ongoing budget session in Bihar. If the government does not pay attention to the voice if the working people, it will be doing so at its own peril. Our people are ready to ensure a successful bandh in Bihar and Jharkhan on the second day too. In terms of participation the band is a success, but ultimately it is about achieving our goals. If we don’t, the movement will have to be intensified,” Mr. Bhattacharya said.

He said that labour unions had staged a huge strike in Delhi in 1992. But the Babri Masjid was “demolished to vitiate the atmosphere in the country and stifle the voice of the workers.”