Thiruvananthapuram

Bharath bandh: Trade union strike affects life in Kerala

An empty vegetable market in Kozhikode on Wednesday, 08 January, 2020.

An empty vegetable market in Kozhikode on Wednesday, 08 January, 2020.   | Photo Credit: Ramesh Kurup

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The lockdown, called by the Joint Action Committee of Trade Unions, manifested in a punishing blockade for the State’s population

Everyday life appeared paralysed in no small measure across Kerala as the 24-hour general strike by trade unions to protest the anti-labour policies of the Central government ground on into its twelfth hour on Wednesday.

The lockdown, called by the Joint Action Committee of Trade Unions, manifested in a punishing blockade for the State’s population.

People could not get to hospitals or report for work, with public and private carriage stage services remaining off the road in fear of street violence.

KSRTC employees struck work. Students missed study. Hundreds of aspirants for medical and engineering courses strained to reach Joint Examination Centres (Main) in the State in time. Shops and restaurants remained shuttered. Governance was at an almost standstill. The Government Secretariat and village offices worked on skeletal staff.

The strike also immobilised the banking sector. Trade unionists forced the closure of banks in Thiruvalla in Kottayam district.

Television channels repeatedly broadcasted videos of trade unionists stopping auto-rickshaws in different parts of the State and hauling out passengers, including women.

Stranded commuters pointed out that Kerala was facing its second siege-like strike in the past 30 days. A dawn-to-dusk strike to protest the new citizenship law had transfixed normal life on December 27.

Strike supporters attempted to stop private vehicles in front of the Technopark in Thiruvananthapuram. However, sources said the strike did not affect the work at the Centre.

The strike did not affect Sabarimala pilgrimage. The temple witnessed eight-hour queues and large crowds. The business was usual at tourism destinations, including Kovalam in Thiruvananthapuram, which trade unionists had exempted from the shut down.

Striking unions held marches in all district centres. CITU general secretary Elamaram Kareem inaugurated the protest in Thiruvananthapuram.

He slammed the Modi Government as “pro-corporate” and “anti-labour”. The Centre had systematically hacked away at the rights of workers and did not honour universal minimum wages and labour welfare, he said. Lays-offs, dismissals and retrenchments sans compensation were the order of the day, he added.

The gold between the rich and the poor was widening each day. The price of fuel and provisions and medical care had sky-rocketed. The Centre was solely interested in palming off profit-making public sector units to private players for a fraction of their worth, Mr. Kareem said.

Tourism Minister Kadakampally Surendran drove a scooter to his office to express solidarity with the strike.

The intensity of the strike appeared to abate as each hour passed. By afternoon, private vehicles and motorbikes started plying as usual. Several shops transacted business with their shutters half-open.

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Printable version | Jan 18, 2020 11:39:21 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Thiruvananthapuram/bharat-bandh-trade-union-strike-affects-life-in-kerala/article30512009.ece

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