A two-day nationwide strike called by 10 central trade unions began on Tuesday to protest against the Union government’s “anti-worker, anti-national” policies, including unilateral labour law reforms, privatisation of public sector entities, policies encouraging contract work and 'destroying' job security, and the proposed amendment to the Trade Union Act.
The strike is backed by all central trade unions, except the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh, which is affiliated to the RSS.
“The strike is quite visible in Assam, Meghalaya, Karnataka, Manipur Bihar, Rajasthan, Goa, Punjab, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Haryana -- particularly in the targeted industrial areas and different mines,” general secretary of the All India Trade Union Congress Amarjeet Kaur said.
Here are the latest updates:
Office-goers hit hard due to BEST strike
Over 32,000 employees of Mumbai's civic transport undertaking went on an indefinite strike on Tuesday over various demands, including higher salaries, prompting the state government to invoke the Maharashtra Essential Services Maintenance Act (MESMA) against them.
The protest by the employees of the Brihanmumbai Electricity Supply and Transport (BEST) coincided with the two-day nationwide strike called by trade unions to protest the government's alleged anti-worker policies and unilateral labour reforms.
The state government invoked the MESMA after the strike affected nearly 25-lakh daily commuters. Some commuters complained that autorickshaw drivers were trying to take advantage of the situation and were charging five times more than the normal rates.
A meeting between Brihanmumbai Municipal Commissioner Ajoy Mehta and leaders of the workers' union that has called the strike failed to arrive at a positive result.
"The strike is illegal and the agitating staffers have been asked to resume work without delay, considering the hardships faced by the lakhs of passengers. They (striking staffers) must understand that the government has invoked the MESMA," a senior civic official told PTI.
Production unaffected at Visakhapatnam Steel Plant
Production at various industrial units in Visakhapatnam, the largest commercial hub of Andhra Pradesh, remained normal even as the strike began.
While contract workers in large numbers abstained from work, the duration of bandh was restricted to 24 hours in view of challenging time being faced by the Visakhapatnam Steel Plant. Almost all the contract workers and half of permanent employees abstained from work. A plant spokesman said production remained unaffected.
Cargo handling operations remained normal at the Visakhapatnam Port and the Gangavaram Port. Movement of vehicles carrying import and export cargo also was not affected.
At HPCL Visakh Refinery, 60% of contract workers remained absent. Permanent employees reported to work in full strength, an official said.
“The strike was 100% at NTPC Simhadri Super Thermal Station where all the 2500 contract workers responding to our call did not report to work,” president of Simhadri Power Plant Contract Workers’ Union Ch. Ramachandra Rao said. — Santhosh Kumar Patnaik
Traders open shops in Kozhikode
Traders opened their shops in Kozhikode's S.M. Street on the first day of the two-day national strike.
The street had witnessed large-scale violence and forced closure of shops during the Sabarimala Karma Samiti sponsored hartal in the State on January 3.
The Kerala Vyapari Vyavasayi Ekopana Samiti, the largest organisation representing merchants, had later declared that they could not cooperate with the strike. Some shops had been opened in Valiyangadi, the main market in the town, though a majority of them remained closed. The main vegetable market at Palayam wore a deserted look.
Meanwhile, a building in Gujarati Street was painted black by unknown persons early in the morning.
Rail, road traffic hit in Odisha
The strike disrupted rail and road traffic in Odisha. Train services were hit as trade union activists staged rail roko at many places, including Bhubaneswar, Cuttack, Puri, Balasore, Jaleswar, Bhadrak, Sambalpur, Berhampur and Paradip, police said.
Over a dozen trains were delayed due to the blockade of railway tracks by strike supporters, leaving a large number of passengers stranded at many places, they said.
Shops, markets, business establishments, educational institutions and offices remained closed, while vehicular movement virtually came to a grinding halt across the State during the strike.
Strike partial in Kochi
Public life was partially affected in Kochi. While most of the private buses and those operated by the Kerala State Road Transport Corporation remained off the roads, private vehicles, including cars and two-wheelers, could be seen plying freely. Though train service was partially disrupted at Tripunithura in the morning hours, the traffic was resumed shortly. Most of the shops and commercial establishments functioned on the day. A few educational institutions remained closed as the authorities declared holidays for them apprehending that students may not get vehicles to reach the institutions.
No untoward incidents were reported from the district, police said.
The members of the trade unions who called for the protest took out rallies in different parts of the district.
BEST staffers go on strike in Mumbai
Over 33,000 employees of Mumbai’s civic transport undertaking BEST went on an indefinite strike since midnight over their demands, including higher wages, paralysing bus services and causing inconvenience to nearly 25-lakh daily commuters.
As per BEST sources, one out of 2,259 conductors and eight out of 2,200 drivers turned up for work at 7 a.m. shift. Not a single bus took off from any of the 27 depots.
The Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation (MSRTC) has deployed 40 buses on six routes to help clear the morning rush due to the BEST strike. __ Ajeet Mahale
Life affected in Udupi, normal in Bengaluru
As of morning, there has been a lukewarm response in Bengaluru and Mangaluru to the strike. However, life was hit in Udupi with no bus service from the Service Bus Stand to connect the region to either Mangaluru or the other important towns of the district.
In Bengaluru, while schools and colleges remained shut, it is business as usual for shops, theatres, hotels and city markets.
Click here for updates on the strike in Karnataka
Buses off the roads in Kerala
The buses of the Kerala Road Transport Corporation were off the roads and trains across the State are running late.
Only the services of the KSRTC in the Nilackal-Pampa-Nilackal cooridor for Sabarimala pilgrims are operating since the strike began on Monday midnight.
Hundreds of commuters were stranded as the entire fleet of private stage carriers in the State stayed off the roads. — S. Anil Radhakrishnan
Sporadic incidents of vandalism in West Bengal
Sporadic incidents of vandalism have been reported from parts of West Bengal on Tuesday.
Stones were pelted at a school bus in Champadali area of Barasat in North 24 Parganas district.
A government bus was ransacked by strike supporters at Champadali.
Protestors also vandalised a bus at Jamuria in Paschim Bardhaman district.
Leaders of political parties, including the CPI(M), have come out on the streets in support of the strike.
The Trinamool Congress government has opposed the strike call.
(With inputs from our Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Mumbai, Karnataka, Delhi bureaus and PTI)