The one-day nationwide industrial strike call led to a total shutdown on Friday in the Left-ruled States of Kerala and Tripura but drew a mixed response in other parts of the country.
The call received a strong response from trade unions in Union Labour Minister Bandaru Dattatreya’s home State, Telangana, BJP-ruled States Madhya Pradesh and Jharkhand while essential services were hit in Odisha.
In West Bengal where such strikes used to see a total shutdown when the Left ruled the State, there was only a partial response.
The impact of the strike was felt in coal, defence, steel and cement production.
Banking transactions across the country were severely affected while commuters were inconvenienced in parts of Haryana, Punjab, Karnataka and Bihar as public transport was off the road.
In Delhi, hospital services took a hit as around 2,000 nurses stayed away from work following a call to join the strike by the All-India Government Nurses Federation.
Minimal impact: Centre While the Centre said the strike had “minimal” impact, the central trade unions said the stir was the “biggest-ever” protest by workers. The unions claimed that more than 15 crore workers participated. The government, however, tried to downplay the strike.
“After reviewing the situation in the entire country, we have concluded that the overall impact of the strike on the general public was minimal. It shows that our policies in the last two years are pro-labour,” Mr. Dattatreya told The Hindu .
Mr. Dattatreya said coal, defence, steel and cement sectors saw about 45 per cent absenteeism. Around 30 per cent staff didn’t report to work in the telecom, transport, oil and gas sectors and 17 per cent in the power sector.
“The main opposition was not to labour reforms but to the road transport Bill, FDI [foreign direct investment] in defence and insurance and the merger of major banks,” the Minister said.
Industry body Assocham said the strike may cause an estimated loss of Rs. 16,000-Rs. 18,000 crore to the economy.
“Workers actively participated in the strike despite the use of state repression, including the use of police force in some States like West Bengal, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, and Assam,” the CPI (M)-affiliated Centre of Indian Trade Unions said, adding that workers rebuffed attempts by the Centre to “confuse the workers through different channels.”
The RSS-affiliated Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh, one of the largest trade unions which didn’t join the strike, denied any major impact. “The bandh in Kerala was backed by the State government. The Karnataka government took buses off the road. There was no visible impact in other parts of India,” BMS organising secretary Pawan Kumar said.
The one-day nationwide strike call was given by 10 central trade unions to demand higher minimum wage, social security for the unorganised sector, minimum monthly pension of Rs. 3,000 per month, measures to check inflation and speedy registration of trade unions, among others.